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posted on June 25, 2009 06:41

Idaho Food Stamp Program Suspends Asset Test to Help Idaho Families

The Idaho Food Stamp Program has temporarily dropped its asset test for eligibility to help residents struggling with current economic conditions. Previously, most people were not eligible for food assistance if they had more than $2,000 in assets, which most commonly consists of savings accounts or vehicles such as boats or RVs. By temporarily dropping the asset test, Idaho joins 22 other states that have taken similar action. 

“People seeking food assistance today are some of our most responsible citizens—they have always worked hard, paid taxes and helped other people in their time of need,” says Health and Welfare Director Richard Armstrong. “It is now time for us to help them as they search for work and struggle to keep a roof over their families’ heads. We are confident that temporary help today will reduce many of the stresses families are facing, so people can concentrate on finding work and becoming self-sufficient again. That’s what we all want.”

Beginning June 1, the state dropped the asset test for one year. State leaders first considered raising the asset amount above $2,000, however, administrative costs would have soared as the state would need many additional eligibility workers to verify asset amounts. By placing a temporary one year limit, state leaders hope the economy will recover and people will be able to find work and no longer need public assistance.

“There are many families who suffered a recent job loss who meet the income eligibility criteria for Food Stamp assistance, but have some assets,” says Russ Barron, Idaho Administrator of the Division of Welfare. “The problem is, they cannot sell that boat or RV—there is no market for it. Our goal is not to force more people into poverty—it can have a negative, long-term impact on both families and communities.”

The Idaho Food Stamp Program offers food assistance to people who earn 130% or less of the federal poverty limit. For a family of four, this amounts to approximately $2,300 of monthly income. Benefits are provided on a graduated scale by the federal government. Based on prior experience, approximately 4% of Food Stamp applicants met the income eligibility guidelines, but were denied assistance because of the asset limit.

The Idaho Food Stamp Program supplements a family’s nutritional needs. In recent months, the program has experienced record growth, serving approximately 140,000 people in April, up 36% from the previous year. Benefits can be used for non-cooked food items, but cannot be used for tobacco, alcohol, cleaning products or prepared food that has been cooked. In April, an Idaho family enrolled in Food Stamps received an average of $328 in food assistance.

People who are struggling to put food on their tables can contact the Idaho Food Stamp Program offices in their areas. Information is available at www.foodstamps.idaho.gov, or by calling the Idaho CareLine at 2-1-1.