Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has announced a major assault on the food stamp program that feeds 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including 439,245 in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare announced that on May 1, people under 60 with more than $2,000 in savings or other assets will be barred from receiving food stamps. People over 60 would have a $3,250 cap.
As the Inquirer points out in a detailed look, the move to cut food stamps is way out of line with what other states are doing: “Pennsylvania plans to make the amount of food stamps that people receive contingent on the assets they possess — an unexpected move that bucks national trends and places the commonwealth among a minority of states.”
The trend during the Great Recession, with millions falling into poverty, has been to remove such barriers to assistance. Gov. Ed Rendell eliminated the state's asset test in 2008. Pennsylvania now joins 11 states with asset tests — including Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota...
Conservatives frequently bristle at the idea that poor people might have nice things while receiving public assistance ("they have a television on welfare!"). But Pennsylvania will now create the most bizarre of disincentives: dissuading poor people from saving.
“We all know that families need to save money to get off government assistance and achieve self-sufficiency,” according to a press release from Carey Morgan, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. “So it’s not only inhumane, but counterproductive to force people to drain their savings before they can get any help. Someone with less than $2,000 in the bank would easily be wiped out by one visit to the emergency room.”
Image: Governor Tom Corbett by Jenn Grover, Wikimedia Commons.