Green legislation would prevent lottery winners from receiving public assistance

LANSING – State Sen. Mike Green introduced legislation Wednesday that would require Michigan lottery officials to share the names of winners with various government departments, which would then have to immediately remove the winners from all public assistance programs.

Green’s reform was prompted by news reports last spring regarding a Bay County man who was still using food stamps nearly a year after winning a jackpot on “Make Me Rich.” The lottery winner admitted to using a Bridge Card at area stores and claimed state officials gave him the green light to do so.

“Because of a federal loophole, lottery winners who receive lump-sum payouts are not required to treat those winnings as income when they apply for food assistance,” said Green, R-Mayville. “This is an insult to those Michigan families who are struggling and need a helping hand, as well as to taxpayers who expect their hard-earned dollars to be spent responsibly. This legislation puts an end to this fleecing of the taxpayers.”

Under Green’s legislation, Senate Bill 712, the Department of Human Services (DHS) would be required to apply an asset test to those seeking food assistance to verify that their household has no more than $5,000 in countable assets. Money received from lottery or other gambling winnings would go toward this income total whether received in a lump-sum payment or on a monthly payout basis.

A companion measure, Senate Bill 711, would require the Michigan Lottery to submit a winner’s Social Security number to DHS and Medicaid officials within seven days.

“I sponsored this legislation to help ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely and effectively,” Green said. “Making this reform will help make sure that the state’s limited food assistance resources go to those who truly need it.”

The bills have been referred to the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee for consideration.