A Minnesota millionaire who highlighted a loophole in the state's food stamp program might be getting what he wants.
Testifying before a Minnesota House committee earlier this year, Rob Undersander said he and his wife, of Waite Park, collected about $6,000 in food stamp benefits over 19 months despite having assets that categorized them as millionaires. He said they did it to prove a point: not everyone receiving food stamps should be.
“I’m here because I think the state of Minnesota should not give food stamps to millionaires and high net worth individuals,” Undersander said.
He might be getting his wish. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed a rule change that would close food stamp eligibility loopholes and standardize broad-based eligibility guidelines.
"The proposed rule would fix a loophole that has expanded SNAP recipients in some states to include people who receive assistance when they clearly don't need it,” a department release stated. “In fact, the depth of this specific flexibility has become so egregious that a millionaire living in Minnesota successfully enrolled in the program simply to highlight the waste of taxpayer money."
Minnesota is one of 34 states that does not require asset testing to receive food stamps.
“The American people expect their government to be fair, efficient, and to have integrity – just as they do in their own homes, businesses, and communities,” U.S Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”
Not everyone is supporting the rule changes. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D.-Mich, ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, argued against them.
“This proposal is yet another attempt by this Administration to circumvent Congress and make harmful changes to nutrition assistance that have been repeatedly rejected on a bipartisan basis,” Stabenow said in a statement. "This rule would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance.'
Currently, applicants must have an income of less than 165 percent of the federal poverty limit to be approved for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
To qualify for SNAP, a household must have received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash or non-cash benefits valued at a minimum of $50 per month for at least six months.
According to the USDA, some states allow individuals who receive minimal benefits, as simple as receiving information brochures, to enroll in SNAP without proof of income or assets.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 8 percent of Minnesotans used SNAP in FY 2017. Of those, 35 percent had an income equal or below 50 percent of the poverty level, 42 percent had an income of between 51 and 100 percent of the poverty level, and 23 percent had an income above 100 percent of the poverty level.
In May, for example, 67,988 Minnesotans received food assistance. The average monthly benefit is $137.73.
The Washington Examiner reported that the USDA's proposal would remove an estimated 3 million people from the SNAP benefit rolls, resulting in savings of around $2.5 billion annually.