MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill to impose asset limits on food stamp recipients.
That is after a self-described millionaire said he got Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for 19 months, and donated the benefits to charity.
But is that even a problem?
Here is what we know: Waite Park resident Rob Undersander told lawmakers he had plenty of assets, but a low income on paper.
He wanted to prove that some people like him who get food stamps do not need them.
“I’m here because I think the state of Minnesota should not give food stamps to millionaires and high net worth individuals,” Undersander said.
Here are some basic facts: 429,000 Minnesotans got food stamps every month. That is down from 2013, when a record 530,225 people were on food stamps. But it is still higher than it was before the recession.
Are some people “gaming” the system? A family of three qualifies for food stamps if it makes less than $26,600 a year.
The average Minnesota benefit is $104.88 a month. That is about $1.16 per meal.
So here is the question: If you lose your job, and you can’t feed your family, should you have to sell your house or your car, or spend down your retirement account before you get benefits?
Here are the rules: Minnesota is one of 38 states with no asset limits for food stamps. That includes a primary residence, or a retirement account, like a 401(k).
And importantly — property. The Minnesota Department of Human Services says there are many farmers on food stamps who own a lot of land and a house, but have very little income.
In 2017, there were 263 Minnesota farm families on food stamps living in 75 counties.
And 16,000 Minnesota families on food stamps own their own homes. Only 700 homes were worth more than $250,000.
What about food stamp fraud? Food stamps have one of the lowest fraud rates of any government program.
In 2016, Minnesota’s Department of Human Services completed 5,958 SNAP investigations. It said 2,764 people had their benefits reduced or eliminated based on the findings.
Another 330 were disqualified after appeals. That is about half of 1 percent.
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