Amanda Clayton, Lottery Winner, Defends Food Stamps. Michigan Disagrees.
Michigan could become the first state to enact legislation that polices the access that lottery winners have to assistance programs - after two cases have come to light in which such an individual continued using food stamps after winning at least $1 million.
This week, Amanda Clayton of the Detroit area made headlines for acknowledging that she still received $200 in monthly food assistance after winning $1 million in state lottery money last September. Following an uproar, she was revoked of her benefits Wednesday.
Last year, Leroy Fick of Bay County, Mich., told a television reporter that he still used food stamps despite winning $2 million from the state lottery. Mr. Fick was acting within any laws and regulations, his lawyer reportedly argued.
The Fick case prompted the legislation that is now moving its way through the state Senate. The bill, which would prevent lottery winners from continuing in federal and state assistance programs, passed the House last month.
If the legislation passes, the Michigan Lottery would be required to send the names of anyone winning prizes over $1,000 to the state Department of Human Services, which would then have to cross-reference those names against those receiving public assistance.
“State assistance should only be granted to individuals who truly need it,” said state Rep. Dale Zorn (R) of Lansing, who sponsored the bill.
It is unclear if Ms. Clayton acted illegally. According to eligibility requirements posted on Michigan’s Department of Human Services website, wages, self-employment earnings, rental income, child support, Social Security benefits, and veterans benefits are all countable income. Lottery winnings are not in that list.
Human Services Director Maura Corrigan released a statement Wednesday, saying that her department “does not currently have the ability to verify a person’s lottery winnings in determining benefit eligibility” and that policy dictates relying “on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status.” Not doing so results in a criminal investigation, she said.