Rendell criticizes Corbett's proposal for food stamps
Share with others:
HARRISBURG -- Requiring an asset test of those applying for food stamps is impractical and harmful, said former Gov. Ed Rendell during a state Capitol appearance on Wednesday.
Mr. Rendell, a Democrat who was succeeded by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett a year ago, offered a rare critique of the sitting governor. He was prompted to speak by Mr. Corbett's proposal to cap how much food-stamp recipients can have in their savings accounts while remaining eligible for the program.
The former governor contrasted that proposed $2,000 cap on assets, such as personal savings, with the "means test" required by the federal government, limiting participants to those making less than 200 percent of the poverty level. Pennsylvania further limited the program to those earning 160 percent of the poverty level during Mr. Rendell's administration.
"As long as you have the means test [on annual income], I don't know why you need an asset test," Mr. Rendell told reporters during a morning news conference, where he was flanked by a handful of House Democratic lawmakers.
Re-instituting an asset test, which Mr. Rendell removed in 2008 due to the economic recession, would require retraining of caseworkers, whose workload would increase with a new array of bank statements and vehicle valuations to review.
A Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman disputed that argument, noting that the agency has asset documents for many recipients due to their participation in other welfare programs that require financial documents.
Mr. Rendell also noted that most of the program's funding comes from federal dollars, with the state only required to pay half of the administrative costs. The change would strain food banks and charity programs as more needy Pennsylvanians are removed from the food stamp program, the Democrats said.
Mr. Rendell delivered a letter urging Mr. Corbett to "take another look at the policy" to the governor's receptionist on Wednesday morning.
Mr. Corbett has defended the planned policy, citing complaints that ineligible residents may be enrolling in the program.
His press secretary, Kevin Harley, said the maximum asset level and implementation date are still under discussion but defended the change as necessary to root out fraud and disputed that it would increase costs.
"Gov. Rendell is an expert on food stamps -- the number of people on food stamps nearly doubled under him, from 930,000 to about 1.7 million," Mr. Harley said.
The former governor said cases of fraud involving the food stamp program decreased dramatically during his administration, and he highlighted the millions of dollars in bonuses that the state received from Washington for its low error rate.
First Published January 26, 2012 12:00 am