HARRISBURG, Pa. - A controversial plan to crack down on food stamp fraud goes into effect Tuesday.
Those applying for food stamps in Pennsylvania will have to go through an asset test, which will take a harder look at people's finances to better determine if they truly need aid.
"It's the same as applying for any other public welfare benefit. It's the same application, as a matter of fact," said Carole Koursaros, executive director of Berks Community Action Program.
The asset test looks at the amount of money applicants have in cash, bonds and stocks. It does not look at people's pension plans, home values, retirement accounts, or life insurance, said Koursaros.
Under the asset test, people under 60 who have more than $5,500 in certain assets and those over 60 or disabled with more than $9,000 in certain assets will no longer be eligible for food stamps.
The asset test discourages saving among low-income families, Koursaros said.
"If you're absolute destitute, you'd be eligible for food stamps. And there's something very mean spirited about that," said Koursaros.
Nearly 65,000 people in Berks County use food stamps. The new test will help weed out those abusing the program, said officials with the Pa. Department of Public Welfare, but not everyone agrees it will be that simple.
"It's anticipated that this isn't going to affect many people, but simply the idea that getting food is fraud is probably not the way to go," said Koursaros.
According to state officials, it will take about six months before they know how many people will lose food stamp eligibility.
Allentown, PA 18102