Reps. Gomez, Schrier, and Hayes, Senators Coons and Brown Reintroduce ASSET Act to Bolster Social Safety Net
Washington, May 21, 2021
Tags: Economy and Jobs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08), and Jahana Hayes (CT-05) reintroduced the Allowing Steady Savings by Eliminating Tests Act, known as the ASSET Act. This legislation would eliminate federal asset limits set on eligibility for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and would raise the federal asset limit for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility. Senators Chris Coons (DE) and Sherrod Brown (OH) have reintroduced companion legislation in the United States Senate.
As federal law currently stands, states can limit families’ eligibility for safety net programs on the basis of income and assets, including things like a savings account or a car. Asset limits are counterproductive to the goal of economic development as they penalize families for saving for emergencies, education, and retirement. Programs like TANF, SNAP, and LIHEAP help low-income families meet basic needs, including food, heating, and shelter, while SSIS targets extreme poverty among the elderly and those with disabilities. The ASSET Act would prohibit states from applying asset limits on TANF, SNAP, and LIHEAP eligibility, but income limits would remain. This bill would also raise the asset limit for SSI from $2,000 to $10,000 for an individual and from $3,000 to $20,000 for a couple and index that limit to inflation. The asset limit for SSI has not changed since 1989.
“If working families are to have any chance to thrive in this country, we need to bolster our social safety net and remove unnecessary and harmful eligibility rules,” said Representative Gomez who first introduced the ASSET Act in the 116th Congress. “In a country where most people cannot afford a surprise $500 medical or auto repair bill, the ASSET Act represents a new, transformative vision for public assistance. While we recover from the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19, we should not be penalizing Americans who are struggling to get by. Instead, we need to boost those hurt most by job loss, low wages, and poverty by ensuring they have a robust social safety net that works for them.”
“Asset limits for public assistance programs are outdated. You shouldn’t have to lose your car to get help affording food,” said Representative Schrier, M.D. “The ASSET Act strikes the right balance between giving families the opportunity to build their savings while also still receiving critical benefits to keep everyone fed with healthy food and the heat on.”
“As Americans across the country are trying to recover from the economic and health crises created by COVID-19, public assistance programs serve as a critical lifeline for families, but the counterproductive limits placed on savings prevent recipients from withstanding financial emergencies and moving off public assistance programs,” said Senator Coons. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation that would remove misguided incentives and unnecessary red tape in these programs, so low-income Americans can access the help they need.”
“This bill puts Ohioans first. By eliminating arbitrary, out-of-date restrictions that prevent Ohioans from saving for emergencies, we can help to both streamline assistance for families and mitigate administrative backlogs,” said Senator Brown. “As we continue to recover from the economic and health crises, I’ll continue to support legislation that helps ensure Ohioans aren’t punished for saving a little extra money, in order to be prepared for medical emergencies and unexpected expenses.”
As an example of the potential success of the ASSET Act, removing asset limits on SNAP benefits alone reduces the number of individuals repeatedly cycling on and off the program by 26%, and increases the odds that lower-income adults have at least $500 in emergency funds on-hand by 8%.
The following organizations have endorsed the ASSET Act: Prosperity Now, Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Children’s HealthWatch, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Social Security Task Force, Coalition on Human Needs, Feeding America, First Focus Campaign for Children, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), Justice in Aging, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), National Women’s Law Center, The Arc, UnidosUS, Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council (DCRAC), Delaware Community Legal Aid Society (CLASI), Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, REACH Riverside, and United Way of Delaware.
“Bread for the World strongly supports the ASSET Act,” said Heather Valentine, Director of Government Relations at Bread for the World. “Eliminating asset tests will give struggling families the opportunity to build up savings and pull themselves out of hunger and poverty. Families should not be punished for building a better life for themselves or for having some savings to fall back on in case of an emergency or unexpected expense.”
“We know that children thrive when their families are able to afford basic needs today and save for a better future tomorrow,” said Dr. Megan Sandel, pediatrician and Co-Lead Principal Investigator at Children’s HealthWatch at Boston Medical Center. “Removing asset limits in programs means knocking down barriers for families so children stay healthy and are able to reach their highest potential.”
“The Coalition on Human Needs strongly supports the ASSET Act, which will allow people who need TANF, SNAP, LIHEAP, and SSI to improve their economic security by ending counter-productive penalties on savings, enabling them to withstand financial emergencies, reduce their dependence on public assistance, and build for their future,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director at Coalition on Human Needs.
For a one-page summary of this legislation, please click here.