Pennsylvania’s struggling citizens are about to learn how much they are worth to the government — about $5,500 to $9000. The state is preparing to institute their new “asset-based” food stamp criteria, which will force those who are too “rich” for government assistance to sell off most of their possessions if they want to eat.
According to CBS, “[T]he administration says it wants to make sure people turn to their own resources before seeking assistance.” Which is an absolutely lovely thought, but in reality is destined primarily to ensure that those who are poor never get out of a cycle of poverty. While those who are elderly or disabled are allowed up to $9000 in assets to still qualify for assistance, those who fall in neither bracket can have only $5,500.
Asking a person to drain his or her bank account in order to receive government assistance — especially in a time when it is so difficult to find work or retain insurance coverage — is leaving most people just one step from disaster. $5,500 is a few months rent or mortgage should unemployment benefits run out, or one emergency room visit with a broken arm if your COBRA lapses. Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to plan for a fiscal emergency rather than making complete destitution mandatory?
The state of Michigan already asked that question when it discussed its own potential change to an asset-based assistance program. Their decision? People should sell off all of their assets first, then struggle to repurchase their basic needs once they are employed — hopefully with earnings large enough to make up for their losses.
CBS reports that the state claims less than one percent of applicants will be affected by the new rules. Which a very polite way of saying most of the people who are applying already ran out of money long ago.
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