Emmons shepherds through reforms to stop lottery jackpot winners from getting food aid

LANSING – Legislation to prevent large lottery winners from receiving public food assistance is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed, said Sen. Judy Emmons.

“We must ensure the efficient and effective use of our limited resources. This reform does that by ensuring food assistance goes to residents who need the aid to feed their families and not to jackpot lottery winners,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “This legislation will also help uphold our commitment to Michigan taxpayers to be good stewards of their tax dollars by increasing accountability for how each dollar is used. I am proud to have helped shepherd these initiatives through the Legislature because they will help our families and our bottom line.”

The reforms were prompted by news reports in 2011 regarding a Bay County man who was still using food aid nearly a year after winning a $2 million jackpot on “Make Me Rich.” The man admitted to using a Bridge Card at area stores and claimed state officials allowed him to do so.

It was also discovered in March that a 24-year-old Lincoln Park woman, who won a $1 million lottery jackpot on the same lottery game show, was receiving $200 per week in food assistance. Both winners have since been dropped from the food assistance program.

“While our economy is improving, we owe it to every Michigan resident looking for work or struggling to make ends meet that the state’s limited public aid resources help the truly needy,” said Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. “As chair of the Senate panel overseeing our public assistance programs, I was outraged that a pair of million-dollar jackpot winners continued to get food aid until the news media exposed them.

“I urge the governor sign this legislation and prevent this abuse of public aid from reoccurring.”

Senate Bill 711 requires the Michigan Lottery to notify the Department of Human Service (DHS) of the name and other information of a winner of a prize of $1,000 or more within seven days. SB 712 and House Bill 5033 would require DHS to apply an asset test when determining eligibility for food aid. Money received from lottery or other gambling winnings would go toward this asset total whether received in a lump-sum payment or on a monthly payout basis.

The three bills are now on their way to the governor for consideration to be signed into law.