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Michigan Cracking Down On Food Stamp Abuse

“If you’re driving an Escalade, maybe it’s time to find a car that better fits your current economic situation.”

Michigan is continuing its crackdown on food stamp abuse. Under new guidelines being launched this month, applicants for the program will have their assets scrutinized.

For instance, if an applicant has $5,000 in liquid assets or a car or truck worth more than $15,000, they will probably be ineligible for the program under the new rules , according to USA Today.

Michigan is not the only state to check assets—Arizona, Texas, and Indiana, do as well, among others, Newser writes. Whereas states including Oregon, Oklahoma and New York do not inquire into the applicant’s financial stability, USA Today research showed.

Michigan wants the test to weed out people who are "gaming the system," said Brian Rooney, director of policy and compliance at the Michigan Department of Human Services in the USA Today article.

The growing concern for people abusing the program most likely is a result of the fact that the program itself is costly.

More than 40 million Americans used the benefit in September, receiving an average benefit of $134 per person (making it a total of $5,360,000,000  for September) or $290 per household (total of $11,600,000,000), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One can understand why some states have decided that it might be time to regulate the program.

“If you’re driving an Escalade, maybe it’s time to find a car that better fits your current economic situation,” a Department of Human Services official explained in the USA Today article.

Michigan's policy is a shift away from one that based eligibility strictly on income and runs counter to a trend that many states have adopted in recent years, Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, told USA Today.

“Telling them they can't have assets, you're undermining the premise of the program,” she explained. “A lot of these benefits go to people that were, a few years ago, solidly within the middle class. It's probably going to be temporary help.”

Most states have gone to a system that assumes people are eligible for food stamps if they qualify for other services to the poor, such as Medicaid or Temporary Aid to Needy Families, she added in the article.

Some states have eliminated asset tests, Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy priorities, told USA Today.

"There are number of states in this downturn, Nebraska and Louisiana among them, that have lifted them," she said. "With the growing number of unemployed workers who may put modest savings aside, we don't want them to have to spend down their assets."

Some may remember that earlier this year, Michigan was the state that also cracked down on food stamp abuse with college students:

In an effort to cut costs and balance Michigan’s state budget, Human Services Director Maura Corrigan has removed an estimated 30,000 college students from the state’s food stamp program.

. . . .

For the most part, college students are not eligible for food stamps under federal rules. But under former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration, attending college alone qualified people for food assistance.

But at the direction of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, Corrigan is making it clear that the state can no longer sustain the costs involved in handing out food stamps to college students.

“We want to encourage people to be self-sufficient, not to be dependent on the government,” she said.

Encouraging people to be "self-sufficient" and live within their means could prove to be promising.

One last thing…
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