PA Changing Requirements for Food Stamps

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Pennsylvania is enacting stricter standards for those who get food stamps, and it won't be as easy for those with low incomes to get state help at the checkout line.

Those who have a second car or extra cash in a savings account could be cut off the state food stamp program even if they don't make much money.

Soon, Pennsylvania is going to look at what people own before determining if they will get food stamps.

Nearly two million Pennsylvanians get food stamps to help pay up at the supermarket checkout but some of them will soon have to fend for themselves.

Starting May first, the state will use an asset test to determine who gets help paying for food. For example, you will get no food stamps if you have a second car worth more than $4,500.

"I walk, so it helps me a lot!" said Mary Ellen Jones. She doesn't have a car or many assets. She doesn't have to worry.

She used her food stamp access card Tuesday to buy groceries at Gerrity's in west Scranton.

The state said it is changing the food assistance program to cut down on fraud. Jones doesn't mind that.

"I don't, but I believe some people do and they get away with it and then we have to suffer for it, the ones who really need it," Jones added.

To get food stamps right now in Pennsylvania, the state looks at your income level. This would change that. They would look at your assets, how many cars you have, how much money you have in the bank. That would determine if you get help buying the food.

Those under 60 who have assets greater than $2,000 are out. Seniors older than 60 can't have assets above $3,250.

The state will look at money in checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds and savings certificates.

It will also look at any extra cars you have, boats, ATVs and other personal property.

Barry Gould of Taylor said he went through a similar asset test in place when he lost a job decades ago.

"It did happen to me, that was back in '66, '67. The more you own, the less you get. That's what they did to me," Said Gould. He questions the timing of cutting food assistance now. "Today's economy, I think they need the help today regardless of what they own, the house they have, even their income. People need help today. They need jobs, help anything."

Pennsylvania did have similar asset tests in the past, but that ended in 2008.

The state will begin examining all food stamp recipients and applicants again starting May first.