Proos: ridiculous for $2 million lottery winner to be still receiving public assistance

LANSING – Sen. John Proos expressed serious concern that a Bay County man was still using a state bridge card 11 months after he won a $2 million lottery jackpot on “Make Me Rich.”

“We are facing tough choices every day, but this is an easy one to make: Millionaires should not be getting food stamps. Period,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “As Michigan balances a $1.5 billion budget deficit, the Legislature must provide oversight to make sure each taxpayer dollar is spent wisely. Ensuring that public assistance programs help the truly needy and that abuse isn’t tolerated is important to that effort. ”

Proos added: “Frankly, it is ridiculous for a $2 million lottery winner to be on food stamps.  I am working with my Senate colleagues and both state and federal officials to close the loophole that allowed this to happen.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chair John Moolenaar, R-Midland, has called for legislation that would require Michigan lottery officials to share the names of winners with the Department of Human Services (DHS) within seven days and for the individual to be immediately removed from all public assistance programs.

The Bay County lottery winner admits to using a Michigan Bridge Card at area stores and claims state department officials have given him the green light to do so.

Eligibility for food stamps is based on gross income, and federal guidelines prohibit DHS from counting liquid assets for the food assistance. To put an end to this practice, the department has asked for changes to federal rules and hopes the new rules will be in effect by this fall.

“Closing this loophole with help the state eliminate fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars. That will then help us fund priorities like education, infrastructure and public safety,” said Proos.

In Michigan, residents needing state assistance are issued an “Electronic Benefit Transfer” debit card known as a Bridge Card to purchase food products and access cash benefits, instead of paper food stamps and paper checks.

Editor’s Note – Audio and video comments by Sen. Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Podcasts” for audio comments.