Monday, March 12, 2012

Should Lottery Winners Be Eligible For Foodstamps?!?

Playing PowerBall and MegaMillions is part of my weekly honey-do list. My wife likes playing it, and I like my wife being happy and whatnot. What we'd do should we actually hit the numbers remains to be seen, but I'm pretty sure we'd be smarter than a poor Michigan woman who finds herself the subject of a national controversy.
Michigan could become the first state to enact legislation that polices the access that lottery winners have to assistance programs – after two cases have come to light in which such an individual continued using food stamps after winning at least $1 million.

This week, Amanda Clayton of the Detroit area made headlines for acknowledging that she still received $200 in monthly food assistance after winning $1 million in state lottery money last September. Following an uproar, she was revoked of her benefits Wednesday.

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. Mr. Fick was acting within any laws and regulations, his lawyer reportedly argued.

The Fick case prompted the legislation that is now moving its way through the state Senate. The bill, which would prevent lottery winners from continuing in federal and state assistance programs, passed the House last month.

If the legislation passes, the Michigan Lottery would be required to send the names of anyone winning prizes over $1,000 to the state Department of Human Services, which would then have to cross-reference those names against those receiving public assistance.

It is unclear if Ms. Clayton acted illegally. According to eligibility requirements posted on Michigan’s Department of Human Services website, wages, self-employment earnings, rental income, child support, Social Security benefits, and veterans benefits are all countable income. Lottery winnings are not in that list.

Clayton won $1 million in the state’s “Make Me Rich!” game. According to The Detroit News, she took home $500,000, which she used to buy a new home and car.

The uproar over her winnings started this week after she told Detroit television affiliate WDIV that she was “struggling” to make ends meet.
Here's the moving pictures, for those of you less-inclined to read, or whatever.

As someone so astutely pointed out on Twitter, it's pretty clear Ms. Clayton is higher than giraffe coochie a kite in the segment above. What's not so clear is what the heck those background songs are, and why the segment producer chose something so trivial for a supposedly "hard news" story. Seriously, even for a local news segment, this is jive tacky, and borderline unprofessional. Do better, WDIV! Hell, do better Detroit, period.[1]

As silly as this sounds, it's really not. Millionaires are still eligible for unemployment benefits upon loss of job, so a lottery winner getting food stamps isn't really such a stretch. Sure, it's hard to feel bad for Ms. Clayton, bubblehead that she is, but she didn't technically do anything illegal.

Reality is, had some "friend" not dimed her out, it's likely Ms. Clayton would still be getting her EBT-on.[2] The fact that the state of Michigan doesn't employ anyone smart enough to run a SQL query on lotto winners vs food stamp rolls is much more egregious. As a guy who sorta-kinda does this for a living, I'm really peeved about that.

For anyone mad at Ms. Clayton for gaming the system, don't be.[3] She did, after all, just drop about $200k in taxes when she took that lottery payout, so it's not like she isn't pulling her weight anymore. And given how not-so-bright she seems to be (two houses!?!), it's likely she'll legitimately be right back on food stamps sometime in the not-so-distant future. So chill.

Question: Does this woman deserve to be mocked for simply gaming the system, or does she need to buy her own d*mn Cheerios instead of mooching off taxpayers? How long before she's back to being flat broke?

[1] No income, but wearing designer shades = "Do Better!"

[2] Seriously, what jealous, petty a$$ed chick had the nerve to call the local news on Ms. Clayton? Stop snitchin'!

[3] To her credit, that looks like one of those Detroit homes you can buy for about $3,000, and she is driving a pretty busted looking Chevy Cavalier. So just maybe I'm misunderestimating this woman's financial savvy. But prolly not.

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