LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Lottery and other gambling winnings would factor into eligibility for welfare assistance under legislation approved Tuesday by the Republican-led Michigan House.
The main bill in the package, approved 67-39, also would put into state law a requirement for asset tests to help determine eligibility for food and cash assistance programs in the state. Some asset tests already are used in Michigan through state department policy.
The measures advance to the Republican-led Senate.
Lottery officials would be required to notify the state’s Department of Human Services about winners of $1,000 or more. That provision won overwhelming bipartisan support in the House.
But some Democrats are worried that putting asset test requirements into state law would make decisions about assistance eligibility too inflexible.
“It could ultimately affect thousands of children,” said Rep. Maureen Stapleton, D-Detroit.
Stapleton also questioned how the state could monitor casino and other gambling winnings not covered by the state lottery.
The legislation comes after a Bay County man last spring acknowledged he continued to use food stamps despite winning a $2 million lottery prize in 2010. State officials said at the time that lump sum payments weren’t counted when judging eligibility for food aid.
Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, said the legislation is designed to make sure that people who are truly poor receive benefits while blocking eligibility for people who don’t need the help.
Welfare has been a recent hot topic in Michigan. Last August, the state removed about 30,000 college students from its food assistance program after enforcing federal guidelines. Then in September, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a stricter, four-year lifetime limit on cash welfare benefits. Lawmakers have also considered mandating drug tests for welfare applicants.
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