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July 11, 2014, 12:30 pm

Rendell opposes Corbett's food stamp asset test

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Wednesday his successor, Gov. Tom Corbett, should cancel plans to deny food stamps to people deemed by the state to have too much in personal assets.

Rendell hand-delivered a three-page letter to Republican Corbett's offices that warned an asset test would be expensive to administer and harmful to the economy, particularly in poor neighborhoods where food stamps are often a major source of business for small grocery stores.

"They're not all minority, they're not all urban dwellers," Rendell said at a Capitol news conference with about a dozen state House Democrats. "They're our neighbors."

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said an asset test will be implemented by the Department of Public Welfare in the coming months, but the administration has not decided its dollar-value level.

In a letter to the federal government late last month, the agency said it was considering a bar on recipients who have more than $2,000 in savings or other assets subject to the rule, or more than $3,250 for people who are over 60 or disabled.

"Ed Rendell's an expert on food stamps, because during his administration the number of people on food stamps nearly doubled, from 900,000 to more than 1.7 million," Harley said.

Rendell's letter to Corbett said any potential savings would be "far less than the costs the state and our families will bear."

About a quarter of states currently impose a food stamp asset test, and Democrat Rendell eliminated Pennsylvania's test in 2008.

Food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, range in benefit levels, with the maximum for a family of four at $668 a month.

A state welfare official has said the asset-test level proposed in the letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture would cut about 2 percent of people from the rolls. -- (AP)