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Lottery winners on Welfare

Updated on March 22, 2012


Every once in a while you come across a story that is so absurd and ridiculous that all you can do is scratch your head and wonder what the hell is going on? According to the way I see things; one such story is lottery winners on welfare.

Lawmakers have suddenly decided that they want to end public assistance to lottery winners. I'm sorry; did I just hear that right? They just decided this? Should this have not been decided before there was even a Lottery?

Recently a Michigan woman by the name of Amanda Clayton won a $1-million lottery jackpot. Miss Clayton openly admits that she's continued to collect $200 a month in public assistance even after her lottery winning. If that's not enough, the 24 year old mother of two says that she deserves the financial aid because she now has expenses for two houses, and deserves the extra income just like any other taxpayer on public assistance. Did I forget to mention that she also has expenses for her brand new car?

She claims that when she won the $1-million dollars she honestly believed that the state was going to cut her off the assistance. She thought maybe it was OK because she wasn’t working," Clayton told a reporter. "I feel that it's OK because, I mean, I have no income, and I have bills to pay. I have two houses! After taking the lottery payment in a lump sum and paying taxes upfront, she walked away with about $500,000. A far cry from a million dollars, but 500,000 is still nothing to sneeze at.

Amanda Clayton's life became a nightmare after she told Detroit television affiliate WDIV that she was “struggling” to make ends meet. According to state data, the total number of recipients in Michigan’s food-assistance program reached 2.4 million in 2011, resulting in $3.1 billion in payments. In 2010, 2.3 million people received benefits, costing $2.8 billion.

Amanda is not the only Michigan resident to have won millions and still continued to receive money from state assistance programs. Last year, Leroy Fick of Bay County, Mich., told a television reporter that he still used food stamps despite winning $2 million from the state lottery.

It's hard for me to conceive this story when there are so many families out of work and in real need of assistance. Then there are people like this, who have no shame about using the system. The state however is not clear if they are actually doing anything wrong. They don't have jobs, and as a result, don't technically have any income. Are they kidding me? I don’t know who is more at fault in these cases. The residents for doing it or the state for allowing it!

Since the story aired Clayton has been removed from the food assistance program and Michigan could become the very first state to enact legislation that polices the access that lottery winners have to assistance programs. The Fick case has prompted a bill which would prevent lottery winners from staying on federal and state assistance programs. The bill successfully passed the House last month. If the legislation passes, the States Lottery program would have to send the names of anyone winning prizes over $1,000 to the state Department of Human Services. The winner’s names could then be cross-referenced with those receiving public assistance.

The sad part about all this is that this is just one state and two stories. How many other states are unaware of their residents winning millions and still collecting money for assistance? In 2010, 3 percent of Food Stamp payments (SNAP) were made to non-qualifying households or were in amounts considered excessive. In 2009, the Michigan Inspector General’s Office reported 2,617 cases of fraud in the state’s food-assistance. You can rest assured that these are only the one's which have been caught. I'm certain that there are plenty more that go under the wire undetected every year.

Recently I helped my neighbor file for Food stamps. She is married and her husband is the only one working. She was denied because his income is too high. I noticed as I was filling out the paperwork that they went by his net, not his gross. They did not take into consideration cell phones, car payments etc. They only cared about utilities bills, which are included in their rent. It breaks my heart because they are close to retirement, have been married over 40 years and are considering filing for divorce to get the help they so desperately need. I always assumed that "Public assistance was for people who could no longer purchase food, or pay their heating bills. No wonder my elderly neighbors were denied food stamps. The states are too busy helping those millions dollar lotto winners pay for their multiple homes.

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