THE TIMES LEADER: Two area senators co-sponsor bill to halt test
By Andrew M. Seder, Times Leader Staff Writer
While a Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman says she's certain an asset test for food stamps will be reinstated this year, some legislators want to bring the plan to a halt.
Under federal law, Pennsylvania has the right to administer an asset test, but is not required to so. Thirteen states now administer an asset test, said Anne Bale, a department spokeswoman.
"Some Democratic legislators, including two who represent portions of Luzerne County, are trying to derail the plan.
State Sens. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and John Blake, D-Archbald, co-sponsored Senate Bill 1387, which would prevent the Department of Public Welfare from instituting the asset test. The bill is in the Senate Pulic Health and Welfare Committee.
"These benefits provide a safety net for the unemployed and underemployed at a time when it is difficult to find work. Pennsylvania's asset test was removed when the economy went south and it became clear that men and women were struggling and needed some help. While national indicators may point to a recovery, I don't think it is fair to snatch away the safety net just yet in Pennsylvania," Yudichak said.
Blake said the asset test is the latest attack by the Corbett Administration on poor or working-class citizens.
"Last year at this time we discussed a decision by the governor to end adultBasic - a porgram providing essential and affordable health insurance coverage for 40,000 working Pennsylvanians. Today we discuss a new and unnecessary means test for food assistance - an asset test - for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, a program that assures that the unemployed and individuals or families at the lowest end of our economic ladder can afford a nutritious meal," Blake said.
He said requiring people who lost their jobs to obliterate their savings accounts before they can receive assistance for food is the wrong message to send to citizens.
"Trying to keep the car on the road; incurring a medical expense uncoverd by health insurance; a broken furnace in winter-all of these circumstances could wipe out a family's savings in no time. But these real-life circumstances are, apparently, not on the mind of policymakers in the Corbett Administration," Blake said.
Blake said the Lackawanna and Luzerne counties account for nearly 14 percent of total annual SNAP expenditures in the state.
"This is not an urban issue, it is a statewide issue about people in need and we shouldn't be punishing them for the hardship they are experiencing."