Senate moves to stop lottery winners from collecting government assistance

LANSING, Mich.—Lottery winners and those who benefit from gambling proceeds are one step closer to being ineligible for public assistance, after legislation sponsored by state Sen. Mike Green was approved by the Senate today.

“Simply put, times are tough and the limited resources available for public assistance programs should only be going to those in need. That should not include lottery winners,” said Green, R-Mayville.

Green said that, 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. He cited a 2011 news report where a Bay County man who had won the jackpot on “Make Me Rich” was still using food stamps nearly a year later. The lottery winner admitted to using a Bridge Card at area stores and claimed state officials gave him the go-ahead.

Under Senate Bill 712, the state Department of Human Services 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.

“Taxpayers expect their hard-earned dollars to be spent wisely. My bill helps restore responsible spending by putting an end to this problem and by preserving the safety net for those folks who truly need the help,” Green said.

The legislation now goes to the House for consideration.