City Council squares off against Harrisburg over food stamp asset test

A resolution passed City Council today urging Harrisburg to reconsider its proposed asset test for those participating in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. The initiative touched on a longstanding sore spot for city legislators.

“I’ve been around Harrisburg for 35 years,” said Councilman Jim Kenney. “I understand you don’t care about us and you’re not going to help us. But if you’re not going to help us, can you please leave us alone?”

Former State Rep. and current Councilman Kenyatta Johnson called the asset test legislation “mean-spirited and an assault on the most vulnerable,” especially seniors, who resolution sponsor Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said will be forced to “choose between heating and eating.”

Councilman Bill Green said the “insidious” asset tests would require people to bring additional documentation in order to receive food stamps that would have to be reviewed, creating a backlog of cases due to an inadequate number of staffers. “It’s intended to slow down and prevent people who deserve it from getting benefits because they’re tired of going back,” he said.

“I’m encouraged Governor Corbett has removed the $2,000 SNAP asset test and raised the ceiling to $5,000,” Jones Jr. said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but not far enough.”

When asked if he felt that Philadelphia’s resolution would actually cause Harrisburg to act, he said, “Whether they listen or not, we will keep talking. The black clergy has spoken out against it, the NAACP has spoken out against it, City Council has spoken out against it – when all our voices get together, it becomes a chorus.”

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