September 16, 2015
Maine DHHS Announces Asset Test for Food Stamps
$5,000 asset limit applies to cash, snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, and more in childless households receiving food stamps
AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced the implementation of a new rule within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, that will impose a $5,000 asset test to households without children that receive the benefit.
There will be a public hearing on the routine technical rule change on October 6 in Augusta, with full implementation expected in the following weeks. Under the rule, those applying or re-applying for SNAP benefits will be required to disclose certain assets. If those assets exceed $5,000 in value, the applicant will be ineligible for benefits. The asset test is a provision of federal law that Maine has waived in recent years.
For the purposes of the rule, assets do not include equity in a home or a household's primary vehicle. Assets do include the balance of bank accounts, snowmobiles, boats, motorcycles, jet skis, all-terrain vehicles, recreational vehicles, campers, and other valuable assets.
"Most Mainers would agree that before someone receives taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, they should sell non-essential assets and use their savings," said Governor Paul R. LePage. "Hard-working Mainers should not come home to see snowmobiles, four wheelers or jet skis in the yards of those who are getting welfare. Welfare is a last resort, not a way of life."
"We are continually evaluating ways to prioritize funding for those who need it most while transforming the welfare system from a culture of entitlement to a culture of self-reliance," added DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. "When people see that some are using welfare as a first line of defense to keep their boats and motorcycles, rather than using welfare as a safety net, it hurts the public perception of the program."
The rule change will apply to approximately 8,600 individuals on food stamps. Maine in 2014 ranked first in the nation for its decline in food stamp dependency, according to the Federal Nutrition Service (FNS), thanks to the LePage Administration's decision to re-impose the work requirement for able-bodied, 18-49 year old childless adults on the program—a similar federal requirement that had been waived by Maine.