We had an interesting debate in our health and human services reform committee this week: Should you be eligible for welfare benefits based on what you earn or how much money you have?
Under current law, if you want to participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), your household income must be at or below 165 percent of the federal poverty line. But what if someone was rich and was living off his wealth, wouldn’t he, in theory, be eligible for SNAP benefits?
Believe it or not the answer is yes.
And believe it or not, a wealthy Minnesotan provided the proof.
To draw attention to this law, Rob Undersander testified that he and his wife intentionally applied for and received SNAP benefits for 19 months. They were able to do this because they were living off of his Roth IRA that doesn’t count as income. In that time frame, they took $6,000 in SNAP, and then donated a like amount to charity.
A number of Democratic members on the committee were furious – mad at the wealthy person for his participation (which under state law was perfectly legal), but not upset at the fact that this type of welfare abuse can and likely is happening.
To be clear, Undersander “earned” next to nothing over the time he collected SNAP, which is why he was eligible.
To right this wrong, legislation has been brought forward that would require any Minnesota SNAP participant to comply with federal asset limits, which means a family would be judged on income AND the amount of money they already have in their possession.
To me, this is a common sense move. Nearly a decade ago we learned that “Minnesota” residents had used their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in nearly every state in the union – including Hawaii. Millions of taxpayer dollars were lost as a result of this abuse.
Mr. Undersander has proven just how easy it is to get on the public dole, and most reasonable people would suggest that if you consider yourself wealthy, you should not be allowed to take advantage of public assistance programs. With that in mind, why wouldn’t you support closing an existing loophole that allows people who want to commit fraud from milking the system?
Public assistance is supposed to exist for those who are unable to care for themselves and for those who are facing truly devastating circumstances. Making it tougher to obtain benefits for those who do not fall into either of these categories should be a no-brainer.
Have a good weekend,