U.S. Representative T.J. Cox-D has introduced a bill designed to help low income families to continue to be able to save money while not losing eligibility for public assistance programs.

The bill is in response to President Trump’s proposed budget in which programs such as food stamps would be cut.

Cox has introduced the Allowing Steady Savings by Eliminating Tests or ASSET Act. The bill is designed to lift more families out of poverty and to encourage families to save money. The bill eliminates asset limits for being eligible for public assistance programs and raises the asset limits to be eligible for a fourth public assistance program.

U.S. Senators Chris Coons of Delaware and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both Democrats, introduced similar legislation in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Cox’s office stated his bill is an alternative to the President’s budget, which it states imposes new bureaucratic hurdles for families.

Cox’s bill deals with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

These public assistance programs limit eligibility for benefits on the basis of not only income, but the assets of a family, such as savings and other resources. 

Cox’s office stated asset limits for savings are outdated and often are set as low as $1,000 or $2,000. Cox’s office stated that limits a family’s ability to prepare for a medical emergency or unanticipated expense. 

The ASSET Act would no longer count a family’s assets to be eligible for TANF, SNAP or Low-Income Energy programs. Cox’s office state the bill would reduce administrative costs. 

Asset limits are also imposed on eligibility for the Social Security program, Supplemental Security Income, SSI. Cox’s office states those asset limits prevent the elderly and those with disabilities from escaping from poverty.

Asset limits to be eligible for SSI haven’t 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.

“Right now, many safety net programs punish working families for saving money,” Cox said. “Building wealth is the key to helping kids and families thrive, but the asset limits put on key hunger and heating programs penalize saving for emergencies, education, or retirement. In my time in a Congress and my career in community development, I’ve learned that restrictions like these are what stop many working families from making it into the middle class.”

“By eliminating these asset limits, the ASSET Act will allow Central Valley families to save for a home of their own without risking their access to vital programs that help them make ends meet. This bill makes anti-poverty programs do what they’re actually supposed to do: Lift working families out of poverty.”   

The ASSET Act is endorsed by the Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Children’s HealthWatch, Coalition on Human Needs, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), First Focus Campaign for Children, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Women’s Law Center, Prosperity Now, UnidosUS, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Social Policy (CLASP), Children’s HealthWatch, Coalition on Human Needs, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), First Focus Campaign for Children, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Women’s Law Center, Prosperity Now, UnidosUS, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.  

Cox represents the 21st District, which includes Earlimart.

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