Asset test slowing up the system
Pennsylvanians who apply for food stamps, the supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, tend to truly need that aid. The state often has been commended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its low incidence of food stamp fraud and, according to the New America Foundation, the average family receiving SNAP assistance in Pennsylvania has just $331 in the bank.
Yet the Corbett administration in 2012 reintroduced an asset test for SNAP eligibility that had been lifted during the Great Recession. Pennsylvania is one of just 13 states with such a test for SNAP, which is federally funded.
Under the test, households with people younger than 60 can't have assets of more than $5,500 while households including people who are disabled or older than 60 may have assets up to $9,000. There also are income eligibility rules tied to federal poverty standards.
About 1.8 million people receive SNAP assistance in Pennsylvania. During the first year of the revised test, only 4,000 were denied assistance for excessive assets. Nearly three times as many, 11,000, were denied assistance due to inadequate documentation.
Indeed, the principal impact of the rule seems to have been slowing down the application process. Pennsylvania now completes fewer than 82 percent of applications within the federally required 30 days compared with rates above 90 percent in many other states.
Beverly Mackereth, state welfare secretary, recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she is re-evaluating the asset test.
Ms. Mackareth, who said her "primary focus is getting services to the people who are entitled to them," should scrap the asset test to help fulfill that appropriate mission.