The ASSET Act Would Remove Counterproductive Limitations in Safety-Net Programs, Helping Low-Income Individuals Save for the Future and Build Financial Security
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Allowing Steady Savings by Eliminating Tests (ASSET) Act to eliminate asset limitations that restrict eligibility for three vital public assistance programs and raise the asset limitation for a fourth program. U.S. Representatives Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA) introduced companion legislation in the House.
“This bill puts Ohioans first. By eliminating arbitrary, out-of-date restrictions that prevent Ohioans from saving for emergencies, we can help to both streamline assistance for families and mitigate administrative backlogs,” said Senator Brown. “As we continue to recover from the economic and health crises, I’ll continue to support legislation that helps ensure Ohioans aren’t punished for saving a little extra money in order to be prepared for medical emergencies and unexpected expenses.”
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) help low-income families, particularly those with children, meet basic needs like food and heating. However, currently, federal law gives states flexibility in determining eligibility for benefits on the basis of not only income, but also the assets of a family, such as a savings account and vehicle ownership. Asset limits for savings are outdated and often set as low as $1,000 or $2,000, limiting a family’s preparedness for a medical emergency or unanticipated expense. Some states have recognized this flawed public policy and have chosen to eliminate asset limitations on these programs. The ASSET Act would establish a consistent policy across the country, which would encourage household savings, increase financial security of families, and reduce administrative costs for states.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program reduces extreme poverty among the elderly and people with disabilities. While asset limits are part of the SSI program design, limits have not been raised or even adjusted for inflation since 1989. The ASSET Act raises SSI asset limits from $2,000 to $10,000 for an individual and $3,000 to $20,000 for a couple, and indexes those thresholds to inflation.
In addition to Senators Brown and Coons, the ASSET Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).
The bill is endorsed by Prosperity Now, Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Children’s HealthWatch, Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Social Security Task Force, Coalition on Human Needs, Feeding America, First Focus Campaign for Children, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), Justice in Aging, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, National Women’s Law Center, The Arc, UnidosUS, Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council (DCRAC), Delaware Community Legal Aid Society (CLASI), Food Bank of Delaware, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, REACH Riverside, and United Way of Delaware.
The bill text is available here.
The one-pager is available here.