Opponents discuss new asset testing for SNAP recipients

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — The Department of Health and Human services will reintroduce asset testing for some childless SNAP recipients. This will begin on November 1st and limit assets to $5,000. On Tuesday, DHHS held a public forum to hear from the public about their concerns.

Director of Media Relations David Sorensen with DHHS said, “It is always important to hear what the public has to say when we implement a change like this. This is a significant change and a significant welfare reform.”

For the 50,000 Mainers who will be affected by the rule change, they will need to prove they have no more than $5,000 in assets this includes money in their bank accounts and the value of any recreational vehicles such as ATVs, snowmobiles, and boats. It does not include equity in their home or the value of the recipient’s primary car.

Sorensen said, “Mainers are demanding significant welfare reforms and this one, we believe, is common sense to return welfare to a system of last resort. Not a first resort as many would have it be.”

This is not a new rule. Under federal law, states can choose to use it or not. In 2010 under Governor Baldacci, Maine stopped using asset testing.

Sixteen people showed up for Tuesday’s hearing among them was Donna Yellen with Preble Street.

Yellen said, “There are many people in our state who have worked really hard and continue to work hard to have things and those small possessions shouldn’t get in the way of them temporarily of needing food assistance.”

Democrats who oppose the rule change say it will only hurt Mainers and it won’t save the state any money because it is a federally funded program. Officials with DHHS, however, disagree and claim it is not about saving the state money it is about saving the integrity of the program.

“We are committed to ensuring our welfare system has integrity and taxpayers can trust it is only going to those who need it most,” explained Sorensen.

Although they held the public forum Tuesday, DHHS officials will still go forward with the rule change. They will, however, take the concerns expressed under consideration for the final wording of the rule.