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Asset test for food stamps goes into effect Tuesday

By Paola Giangiacomo, Reporter
Published On: Apr 29 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 01 2012 04:31:11 AM CDT

The asset test for food stamps goes into effect Tuesday.

The asset test for food stamps goes into effect Tuesday.

State officials say the new limits will save public money and prevent fraud.  Critics say the test will disqualify thousands of low income families from getting the help they need.

About 1.8 million Pennsylvanians currently receive food stamps. That's one in seven people in the state.

Nina Serrano of Allentown is one them.

She recently suffered a stroke and relies on her monthly allotment to help feed her five children.

"I'm concerned. I'm very concerned," she said.

Starting Tuesday, food stamp recipients will have to pass a test to prove they don't have significant personal assets in order to qualify for benefits.

"I think it's outrageous. They should consider not only their income but what other helps they're getting," she said.

Here's how the asset test works: for those participants over the age of 60 and/or disabled, you can't have more than $9,000 in assets.

If you are under the age of 60, you can't not have assets worth more than $5,500.

The rules pertain to cash, stocks, and bonds but not to pension plans, retirement accounts, home values or life insurance.

Kathryn Hoffman processes food stamp applications.

"They're going to count a second car. It can't be worth more than $4,200. If you live in the boonies in Pennsylvania and need 2 cars to keep your jobs and if your car is worth $4200 you would have to not have that car to be eligible for food stamps," she said.

Nina is concerned the asset test will disqualify her from the getting the food her family needs.

"I pay my own rent. I pay bills all my social security goes towards that. Whatever I have left for food stamps goes towards food," said Serrano.

The new rules for participants start Tuesday, although it'll be six months before the department knows how many will lose food stamps.