Maine bans lottery winners from receiving food stamps

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Maine has instituted a new rule that bans those who win more than $5,000 a month by gambling or the lottery from getting food stamps benefits, the state announced Tuesday.

Gov. Paul LePage approved the rule as part of a series of strict measures to reduce the state’s dependence on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps, in Maine.

“In no way, shape or form should taxpayers be asked to foot the bill for someone who is gambling and winning huge amounts of money,” Maine Department of Health and Human Services commissioner Mary Mayhew said in a statement. “Welfare benefits shouldn’t be used for gambling or lottery, and someone who beats the long odds and ‘wins big’ shouldn’t continue receiving assistance while he or she has that money.”

Maine recently tightened restrictions on using food stamps to buy lottery tickets after the state discovered in 2015 that 3,685 Maine residents on food stamps or other welfare received more than $22 million in lottery prizes since 2010.

“Along with our recent ban on using welfare benefits to to purchase lottery tickets, this rule makes sure that taxpayers aren’t subsidizing gambling or giving benefits to those who have other means,” Mayhew said.

Lottery and gambling prizes will be counted as assets, which Maine now measures to determine eligibility for food stamps under rules finalized Sept. 2015. Individuals without children who have more than $5,000 in assets are banned from receiving food stamps under the new restrictions.

“Most Mainers would agree that before someone receives taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, they should sell non-essential assets and use their savings,” LePage said when the asset testing rule was approved last fall. “Hardworking Mainers should not come home to see snowmobiles, four-wheelers or Jet Skis in the yards of those who are getting welfare. Welfare is a last resort, not a way of life.”

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