CFED Scorecard

CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard

Financial Assets & Income
Asset Limits in Public Benefit Programs

Many public benefit programs—such as cash welfare, food assistance and heating assistance—limit eligibility to those with few or no assets. If individuals or families have assets exceeding the state’s limit, they must “spend down” longer-term savings in order to receive what is often short-term public assistance. These asset limits, which were originally created to ensure that public resources did not go to “asset-rich” individuals, are a relic of entitlement policies that in some cases no longer exist. Cash welfare programs, for example, now focus on quickly moving individuals and families to self-sufficiency, rather than allowing them to receive benefits indefinitely. Personal savings and assets are precisely the kinds of resources that allow people to move off public benefit programs. Yet, asset limits can discourage anyone considering or receiving public benefits from saving for the future.

What States Can Do

States determine many key policies related to public benefits. States have discretion in setting or eliminating asset limits for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp program. The best option is for states to eliminate TANF, SNAP and LIHEAP asset limits entirely. The existence of an asset limit, no matter how high, sends a signal to program applicants and participants that they should not save or build assets.

However, if a state has not yet eliminated asset limits entirely, it can take several intermediate steps to mitigate the disincentive to save. For example, states can increase asset limits and/or index them to inflation, thereby reducing the likelihood that participants or applicants will reach the limit. Another option is for states to exempt certain classes of assets from their asset tests in the TANF program. While most TANF programs exclude some “illiquid” assets, such as a home or defined benefit pension, many other liquid holdings, such as defined contribution retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k)s), health savings accounts, education savings accounts (529s and Coverdells) or individual development accounts, often count against the TANF asset limits. States should exempt these types of assets. In addition, vehicles, which are vital for many to find and maintain employment, should be exempted.

Strength of State Policies: Asset Limits in Public Benefit Programs

Has state eliminated TANF asset test? 1Has state eliminated SNAP asset test? 2Has state eliminated LIHEAP asset test? 3
StateEliminated TANF asset test?TANF asset limitKey excluded assets 4Eliminated SNAP asset test?SNAP asset limitEliminated LIHEAP asset test?LIHEAP asset limit
Alaska $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes person over 60 Vehicles, EITC $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Arizona $2,000 All vehicles, IDAs up to $9,000, 529s, retirement accounts, EITC
Arkansas $3,000 One vehicle up to $1,500, educational income $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes person over 60
California $2,000; $3,250 if HH includes person over 60 One vehicle, 529s and Coverdells, retirement accounts, EITC
Connecticut $3,000 One vehicle up to $9,500 $10,000 in liquid assets for homeowners; $7,000 in liquid assets for all others
Delaware $10,000 All vehicles, children's savings accounts, educational income
District of Columbia $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes person over 60 All vehicles, 529s, retirement accounts, EITC
Florida $2,000 All vehicles with value up to $8,500, IDAs, retirement accounts, educational income
Georgia $1,000 One vehicle up to $4,650, IDAs up to $5,000, EITC, 401(k)s and 457 plans but not IRAs
Idaho $5,000 One vehicle, retirement accounts, EITC, educational income, educational savings accounts $5,000
Indiana $1,000 for applicants; $1,500 for recipients One vehicle up to $5,000, IDAs, accounts for postsecondary education, EITC $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Iowa $2,000 for applicants; $5,000 for recipients One vehicle and up to $5,880 of additional vehicles, IDAs, educational income
Kansas $2,000 One vehicle, 529s, educational income $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Kentucky $2,000 IDAs up to $5,000, IRAs, EITC $2,000; $3,00 if HH includes elderly or disabled members; $4,000 if HH includes member with catastrophic illness
Louisiana $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Maine $2,000 One vehicle, IDAs up to $10,000, educational income $5,000
Massachusetts $2,500 One vehicle up to $10,000, educational income
Michigan 5 $3,000 IDAs, restricted retirement plans, 529s, EITC $5,000; first vehicle is excluded Only for crisis assistance: To qualify, HH must first expend own resources for emergency (with exceptions)
Minnesota 6 $2,000 for applicants; $5,000 for recipients One vehicle up to $10,000, IDAs, educational income
Mississippi $2,000 Vehicles, 529s and Coverdells, retirement accounts
Missouri $1,000 for applicants; $5,000 for recipients One vehicle up to $1,500, IDAs, educational grants and scholarships $2,000; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members $3,000
Montana $3,000 One vehicle used as a home, restricted retirement accounts, IDAs, educational income $10,769 for a single person HH, $16,157 for a 2 person HH, add $1,077 per additional HH member up to $21,542
Nebraska $4,000 for one person; $6,000 for two or more people One vehicle, IDAs, restricted retirement accounts $25,000 in liquid assets $5,000
Nevada $6,000 One vehicle, IDAs, 529s and Coverdells
New Hampshire 7 $1,000 for applicants; $2,000 for recipients One vehicle per driver, IDAs, Keogh plans
New Jersey $2,000 All vehicles, IDAs, EITC, educational income
New Mexico $1,500 in liquid assets; $2,000 in illiquid assets All vehicles, IDAs
New York $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes person over 60 One vehicle up to $9,300, IDAs, EITC Only for crisis assistance: $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes person over 60
North Carolina $3,000 All vehicles, retirement accounts, EITC $2,200; no test for crisis assistance
North Dakota $3,000 for one person; $6,000 for two people; $25 per person thereafter One vehicle, IDAs, employer-sponsored retirement accounts, educational income $10,000; additional $5,000 for each HH member over 60
Oklahoma $1,000 One vehicle up to $5,000, IDAs up to $2,000, SEED accounts, 529s and 530s, educational income $2,000 for a single person HH, $3,000 for a 2 person HH, add $50 per additional HH member
Oregon 8 $2,500 for applicants; $10,000 for recipients Vehicles up to $10,000, IDAs, EITC, educational income
Pennsylvania $1,000 One vehicle, IDAs, educational savings accounts, children's savings accounts, SEED accounts, educational income
Rhode Island $1,000 One vehicle per adult, educational income
South Carolina $2,500 One vehicle per adult, IDAs, EITC, educational income
South Dakota $2,000 One vehicle, educational income $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Tennessee $2,000 One vehicle up to $4,600, IDAs up to $5,000, IRAs, 401(k)s and Keoghs less than $20,000, educational income $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Texas $1,000 Income-producing vehicles, one vehicle per disabled member, IDAs, IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, Keoghs, 529s and Coverdells $5,000 (excludes one vehicle)
Utah $2,000 All vehicles, IDAs, 529s and Coverdells, retirement accounts, EITC $2,250; $3,250 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Vermont $2,000 One vehicle per adult, IDAs, educational income
Virginia $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes elderly or disabled members
Washington $1,000 for applicants; $3,000 for recipients One vehicle up to $5,000, IDAs, educational income
West Virginia $2,000 529s and Coverdells, IDAs, educational income
Wisconsin $2,500 Combined equity value of vehicles up to $10,000, IDAs, educational income
Wyoming $2,500 One vehicle (two if married couple), accounts for postsecondary education, educational income $2,000; $3,000 if HH includes elderly or disabled members

Notes on the Data

1. David Kassabian, Erika Huber, Elissa Cohen, and Linda Giannarelli, "Welfare Rules Databook: State TANF Policies as of July 2013," Urban Institute, November 2013. Accessed July 6, 2015. Additional updates from CFED research in July 2015. States receive credit for removing an asset limit if their regulations indicate that a resource test is not used for TANF. Note: "-" indicates that the data is not applicable because the state has already eliminated the asset test for TANF.

2. "Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, as of April 2015," U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. Accessed June 17, 2015. States receive credit for removing an asset limit if their regulations indicate that a resource test is not used for SNAP. Even in states that have eliminated SNAP asset tests, a small number of people may remain subject to the traditional federal resource test of $2,250 ($3,250 for households that include an elderly or disabled person), such as households where some members have a different status than others (e.g. citizenship). Note: "-" indicates that the data is not applicable because the state has already eliminated the asset test for SNAP.

3. "LIHEAP Heating Assistance Eligibility: Assets Test as of April 2015," LIHEAP Clearinghouse. Accessed June 15, 2015. Information reflects state plans for the current fiscal year. States receive credit for removing an asset limit if their regulations indicate that a resource test is not used for LIHEAP. Note: "-" indicates that the data is not applicable because the state has already eliminated the asset test for LIHEAP.

4. Key assets examined are vehicles; Individual Development Accounts (IDAs); accounts for postsecondary education including 529 savings plans and Coverdells; retirement accounts including Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and Keogh plans; children's savings accounts; Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) payments when excluded without a time limit; educational income such as grants and scholarships.

5. Michigan does use an asset test for LIHEAP eligibility, however the limit is $250,000 in property assets and it applies only to Crisis Assistance.

6. Minnesota's $10,000 TANF single vehicle exception takes effect June 1, 2016.

7. New Hampshire excludes all assets in the SNAP program for households with children.

8. The TANF asset limit in Oregon is reduced to $2,500 if the recipient does not cooperate with his/her case plan.

How States Are Assessed

States receive credit for removing an asset limit if their regulations indicate that a resource test is not used for a given assistance program. There are a variety of mechanisms states can use to eliminate asset tests. These can include legislative reform, administrative authority and broad-based categorical eligibility. Asset limits as well as assets excluded from resource limit calculations are drawn from state program manuals.

What States Have Done

Overall, eight states have eliminated TANF asset limits. SNAP and LIHEAP asset limits have been eliminated in 34 and 39 states, respectively, as well as in the District of Columbia. Many other states have excluded important categories of assets from these limits in TANF programs, including 529 accounts, retirement accounts, vehicles and individual development accounts.

In January 2014, all states were required to eliminate Medicaid asset limits for the newly eligible Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) category as part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Federal Flexibility and State Mechanism for Change

The authority to set and eliminate asset limits is shared by the federal government and state governments. Asset limits in some programs, like Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) and Unemployment Insurance, are set federally and states do not have the power to change them. The Unemployment Insurance program does not have an asset limit, but the SSI asset limit is set at $3,000/$2,000. The federal government has the power to eliminate all asset limits in TANF or SNAP, but has not exercised that authority to date, and has instead allowed states to make their own decisions on a piecemeal basis. LIHEAP is structured differently with no asset test at the federal level. However, states are permitted to establish their own resource limits.

SNAP: States that have eliminated their SNAP asset tests have done so by implementing broad-based categorical eligibility. Broad based categorical eligibility is a policy that makes a household eligible for SNAP without regard to asset limits if it receives a TANF- or TANF-Maintenance-of-Effort-funded benefit, such as a pamphlet or an 800-number.

States have had this option since 2002. However, it wasn’t until passage of the 2008 Farm Bill that a large number of states took up the option. The federal bill directly eased SNAP asset tests in three important ways: it adjusted asset limits for inflation, harmonized program rules pertaining to retirement accounts, and excluded education savings and retirement accounts from counting as resources. In addition, however, during the Farm Bill debate in 2008, federal policymakers went on record in support of elimination of SNAP asset tests. These actions together generated new interest and willingness among state administrators to address this disincentive to save.

TANF: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 gave states the flexibility to eliminate or raise asset limits for TANF and to exclude certain types of assets from eligibility determination. States have eliminated the TANF asset test both legislatively and administratively. Ohio, Louisiana, Colorado, Hawaii and Illinois enacted legislation to make the change. In the other three states that have eliminated their asset tests – Virginia, Alabama and Maryland – the state TANF agencies used their authority to change administrative rules, without going through a legislative process.

LIHEAP: The program was established in 1981 as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. In FY 2008, 53% of funding was used for heating assistance, while other energy needs such as cooling, weatherization and crisis assistance accounted for other program costs. States have the flexibility to establish asset limits beyond the federal income eligibility requirements. However, there is no federal asset test. Of the states with asset tests, the majority apply to heating. Several states have separate limits and provisions pertaining specifically to crisis assistance.

Making the Case 

Since 2007, CFED has provided tips to help advocates build a campaign to advance asset-building policies. Although the specific policies featured in the Scorecardhave changed over the years, the strategies discussed in this section are still applicable and can be used to make the case for a number of related policies.

How much does eliminating asset tests cost?                           

Evidence from states that have eliminated asset limits suggests that the administrative cost savings outweigh any real or potential increases in caseload. For instance, eliminating Medicaid asset limits in Oklahoma resulted in administrative cost savings of close to $1 million.1 When Illinois was debating whether to eliminate the TANF asset test in 2013, the State Department of Human Services estimated that removing the asset limit would save $1 million per year.2 In New Mexico, state officials anticipated 38 more people would enroll in Medicaid per month (with an associated increase of $23,000 in direct costs to the state, negligible in comparison with a $5.7 billion annual state budget).3 In Ohio and Virginia, the “early adopters” of TANF asset limit elimination, caseloads decreased in the years following the change.4 Similarly, in Louisiana, where the asset test in TANF was eliminated in January 2009, there has not been a significant increase in caseload, even in the aftermath of the recession. A number of states, such as Oregon, that raised or eliminated their vehicle asset tests found that doing so had a negligible effect on caseload.5

 A 2012 study of asset limits found both statistical and anecdotal evidence that eliminating asset limits has minimal effect on caseloads. State program administrators also reported that eliminating asset limits simplified processes and reduced caseworker time spent verifying assets. For example, Colorado estimated that eliminating the TANF asset test would result in 90 minutes of time savings per case in the first 45 days.6

 From a cost perspective, raising asset limits may be less desirable than eliminating the limits altogether, as there would still be administrative costs involved in individualized eligibility determinations and verifications. Michigan and Pennsylvania recently reversed asset limit policy in SNAP, reinstating the asset tests after years without one. Advocates estimate that few people in the program are expected to be removed as a result of the test, yet costs to the state for eligibility determinations will increase.


Elimination versus reform of asset tests: Elimination of asset limits is the only way to reduce the administrative burden of implementing asset rules. Abolishing asset limits also sends a clear message that saving and building assets are encouraged. However, complete elimination of asset rules may not always be politically feasible. In that case, advocates should aim for elimination while pursuing substantially raised asset ceilings for both applicants and recipients and exemption of additional categories of assets, in line with good public policy and state goals.

Legislative versus administrative approaches: Elimination through a legislative approach may be more likely to stick. Legislative advocacy has the potential to generate more public interest and media coverage than a rule change. On one hand, a legislative battle involves a lot more votes and energy than an administrative change. On the other hand, advocates may not want to generate a lot of public discussion of asset limit redefinition in order to avoid arguments based on old stereotypes or claims that people will take advantage of the system if the state eliminates asset limits. If you choose legislative advocacy, you should work with other advocates to draft a bill and target sponsors and supporters. Research and examples from other states should be shared, and messages to use in support of asset-test reform should be suggested. You should organize witnesses to testify at legislative committee hearings. It should be noted that passage by the legislature is only part of what is needed for implementation; pressure should be maintained on the governor to sign the bill.

An administrative strategy can be very low-cost and subtle, but it requires support from the agency and the executive branch. Advocates in each state have to weigh whether to make an administrative change a public campaign. Sometimes, too much attention can backfire.

If you choose administrative advocacy, request meetings with the director or policy staff of the relevant agency. Bring up the question of reforming the rules on asset limits when you discuss other benefits-related issues with the agency. Share research and examples from other states. Offer to help draft rules or comment on existing drafts. When new rules are proposed, submit public comments and generate additional support from other advocates and legislators. In some cases it may be useful to convene a policy working group to review changes before they are fully implemented, so key stakeholders are aware of the new rules.

Some groups may be constrained from participation in legislative advocacy because of “lobbying” restrictions on legal aid and other nonprofit organizations. Advocating an administrative rule change does not fall within those restrictions and may offer a better alternative for groups subject to such restrictions.


1. Do your research. Experience suggests that advocates of asset limit elimination must do their research. Familiarity with reform in other states can be very helpful in making a case for reform in your own state. Consider whether the asset limit reasonably allows recipients and applicants sufficient net worth to sustain them for at least three months during a loss of income, or whether the rules promote persistent asset poverty that keeps a person living on the edge.9 Financial planners often advise keeping at least three to six months of living expenses readily accessible as an emergency fund.

Consider whether the asset rules allow a person to advance beyond a poverty or basic self-sufficiency level to more secure financial footing and prosperity. Think of the cost of buying an average home and the amount needed for a downpayment; the cost, including maintenance, of a reliable used car to get to work; the cost of college tuition or starting a business; the need to save for retirement in addition to social security; the need to save for an adult or child’s college education or training; out-of-pocket health care costs; and other big-ticket items.10 The lower the asset limit and the fewer the exemptions, the more onerous the asset rule.

2. Gather information on impact of proposed changes. Determine the impact of proposed changes in asset limits. The state agency should be able to determine from its database how many applicants and recipients were denied benefits or cut off benefits because of assets that exceeded current rules. Go back several years to show that few people are likely to become eligible as a result of rule changes. If the agency is unwilling to share the information, advocates can file a Freedom of Information Act request.11 Find out the total current caseload, number of child-only cases and caseload decline since welfare reform.

Solicit the agency’s help in estimating the cost of administering the current rules and the estimated cost savings from proposed changes. If you cannot obtain the agency’s estimate, look to estimates from states with similar programs and caseloads. Based on the number of applicants and recipients denied benefits under current rules, project the number and cost of persons who will become eligible under the new asset limit rules. If caseload increases are projected, distinguish between costs that the state would bear (e.g., TANF) and costs that the federal government would bear (e.g., SNAP).12 Describe how the new rules are consistent with state policies and goals to promote work, self-sufficiency, financial responsibility and upward mobility.

3. Develop and build upon relationships with state and county agencies. Advocates who have a working relationship with the agencies that administer the assistance programs should contact agency leaders to discuss proposed changes in asset limits. If you decide to pursue reform via administrative rule change, you will need the agency’s cooperation in proposing and advancing rules. If the agency that administers state-funded IDAs or financial education is not the same agency that administers assistance programs, seek the IDA agency’s advice and support. If you do not have a direct relationship with the agency, collaborate with an organization that does.

Request a meeting to discuss the asset rules and possible changes, and bring to the meeting the information and arguments you have gathered and a list of questions. Explain the problems that the rules cause and the source of authority to change them, and ask the agency’s opinion and advice on how to proceed. Gather information about the likely impact, including administrative savings and any projected costs. Ask advice on which allies to recruit. Seek consensus on how public the asset reform efforts should be. Also, consider connecting agency staff to administrators from states that have successfully removed asset limits.

Track the progress of the bill or proposed rule and submit public comments, repeatedly making the case for raising or eliminating asset limits or exempting additional assets. Even when the topic is tangential, submit comments that allude to problems posed by asset limits. For example, if you have an opportunity to comment on service delivery or delays in processing applications or renewals, cite the administrative burden of verifying assets for all persons when so few have any countable assets.

If the agency is opposed to the reform of administrative rules on assets, then the agency is unlikely to submit or push for rule change, and your only recourse may be legislation. You will have an uphill battle if the affected agency opposes a bill.

4. Develop and build on relationships with the executive branch. Newly-elected officials sometimes create transition teams to suggest policy proposals. Use any opportunity to participate in a governor’s transition team to suggest the reform of rules on asset limits. State policy advocates frequently work with the governor’s policy and budget staff. Experienced staffers can often lend an insider’s view of the executive’s likely position on such reform and possible conflicts with other issues. Consult informally with contacts among the policy team and budget office to identify concerns and potential opposition, and determine whether an administrative or legislative route makes more sense. This can be accomplished through a simple phone call or e-mail or through a more formal letter or meeting.  

5. Develop and build upon relationships with legislators. Whether you proceed via administrative rule change or legislation, you will probably need at least some legislators as allies. Often, a state board or committee of legislators must approve administrative rule changes. Determine which legislators sit on that board, and contact those with whom you have a good relationship. Even if you do not know any members of the administrative rules committee, you can consult with your district representatives, sponsors of bills on which you have worked, caucus leaders and human services committee leaders. If you take the administrative route, doing much legislative outreach may not be necessary. A better strategy may be to let the agency quietly propose rule changes without attracting much attention.

6. Solicit input from advocates and policy groups. Remember the strength that numbers confer. Seek out other advocates, legislators and coalitions likely to know about and support the reform of rules on asset limits. These other groups may have contacts with the state welfare agency, governor or legislators; they could prove helpful in advancing reform. They can support the strategy through comment letters, phone calls and other contacts.

Legal aid attorneys handling benefit cases are likely to have firsthand knowledge of how asset limits adversely affect clients. Legislators may have heard from constituents who were denied benefits and forced to spend retirement funds or emergency funds. The majority of states now have asset-building coalitions, which can be powerful allies. You may even consider approaching your state bankers’ association for support because reform could mean more deposits, especially if recipients opt for direct deposit of cash benefits into bank accounts.


Public education is key. Communicate your reform message through the media, through presentations and policy briefings, at agency meetings, in legislative committee hearings, through websites and through other, less formal means. Consider what steps will ensure that agency personnel, applicants and recipients learn about any changes in asset rules. Offer to help the agency update caseworkers on the new rules via in-person training, materials or other technical assistance. Where possible, conduct an evaluation after the law or rule takes effect to document any change in the caseload or other significant impact. If benefit recipients participate in financial education, IDA programs or other savings and asset-building activities, incorporate the rule change into course materials.14 Share information on asset rules with other agencies serving low-income families.

Advocates should anticipate certain questions and be prepared with firm answers. For example:

Q:  Will eliminating asset limits make the state appear “soft on welfare”?

A:  No. Few applicants and recipients have assets anyway, and strict work requirements and time limitations reduce the risk that people will take advantage of the system.

Q:  Will asset reform cause caseloads and costs to the state to increase significantly?

A:  Experience in states that have reformed or eliminated TANF and Medicaid asset tests teaches that caseloads do not significantly increase as a result. In SNAP, while eliminating asset tests will likely increase the caseload, all SNAP benefits (and half of the administrative costs) are paid by the federal government, resulting in minimal costs to the state. In addition, removing asset tests can reduce caseworker time spent on documenting resources, so any extra administrative cost of processing additional cases is generally offset by the work reduction in asset verification.


Messages: In promoting the reform of rules on asset limits, consider using the following messages:

  • Asset limits are confusing, inefficient, counterproductive and inequitable.
  • Asset limits send the wrong message and discourage saving.
  • States have authority to reform asset rules.
  • Other states have reformed asset rules.
  • Reforming rules on asset limits is good public policy and consistent with state goals to encourage saving, promote self-sufficiency and reduce dependence.
  • Abolishing asset limits reduces administrative burdens and cost.


1 Leslie Parrish, To Save, or Not to Save? Reforming Asset Limits in Public Assistance Programs to Encourage Low-income Americans to Save and Build Assets, (Washington, DC: New America Foundation, 2005), p.9.

2 “Illinois Senate Passes Bill To Help Poor Families Save: Savings To State Nearly $1m Each Year”, Illinois Asset Building Group, May 2013

3 Vernon Smith, Eileen Ellis and Christina Chang, Eliminating the Medicaid Asset Test: A Review of State Experiences, (Menlo Park: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2001), p.14.

4 Leslie Parrish, To Save, or Not to Save? Reforming Asset Limits in Public Assistance Programs to Encourage Low-income Americans to Save and Build Assets, (Washington, DC: New America Foundation, 2005), p.9.

5 See Oregon TANF Caseload Reduction Report, December 2010, ( More time is needed to assess whether those predictions bear out.

6 Rachel Black and Aleta Sprague, State Asset Limit Reforms and Implications for Federal Policy, (Washington, DC: New America Foundation, 2012)

7 This section is based on: Dory Rand, “Reforming State Rules on Asset Limits: How to Remove Barriers to Saving and Asset Accumulation in Public Benefit Programs,” Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, (March-April 2007), p.625-36.

8 This section is based on: Dory Rand, “Reforming State Rules on Asset Limits: How to Remove Barriers to Saving and Asset Accumulation in Public Benefit Programs,” Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, (March-April 2007), p.625-36.

9 CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Scorecard documents the level of asset poverty and liquid asset poverty in each state. Persons who lack sufficient net worth to survive for three months if income is cut off are considered asset poor.

10 For a helpful calculation of a low-income person’s retirement needs, see Zoe Neuberger, et al. Protecting Low-Income Families’ Retirement Savings: How Retirement Accounts Are Treated in Means-Tested Programs And Steps to Remove Barriers to Retirement Saving, (Washington, DC: The Retirement Security Project, 2005), supra note 12, at 12.

11 Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552 (2007).

12 The federal government pays 100% of food stamp program benefits and divides administrative costs with the states. See 7 U.S.C. § 2020 (2007).

13 This section is based on: Dory Rand, “Reforming State Rules on Asset Limits: How to Remove Barriers to Saving and Asset Accumulation in Public Benefit Programs,” Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, (March-April 2007), p.625-36.

14 Your Money & Your Life: A Financial Education Curriculum for Limited Resource Audiences (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Extension, 2004). See especially Chapter 7: Taking Advantage of Public Benefits.

Case Studies

Since 2007, CFED has provided case studies that capture detailed stories of noteworthy state policy changes. Although the specific policies featured in the Scorecard have changed over the years, these case studies still serve as instructive lessons drawn from both policy victories and defeats.

Eliminating the TANF Asset Test in Louisiana (published October 2012)
Agency leadership was instrumental in eliminating the TANF asset test in Louisiana in 2009. TANF administrators were particularly influenced by a cost-benefit analysis conducted by an outside contractor earlier that year. The analysis pointed out that the state’s successful TANF-funded Individual Development Account (IDA) program was in direct conflict with the asset test. On the one hand, the state was encouraging families to save and accumulate assets through the IDA program; while on the other hand, families were being penalized for owning assets through the TANF asset test. Click here to read more.

Ohio and Virginia Pioneer the Elimination of TANF Asset Limits (updated October 2012)
Ohio was the first state to abolish asset limits in TANF; it did so in 1997. Although Ohio budget analysts predicted a small increase in the TANF caseload as a result of eliminating the asset test, no caseload increase or political fallout occurred…Like Ohio’s policy revisions, Virginia’s elimination of asset tests was part of a broader state welfare reform package that simplified earned income disregards, disregarded student earnings, simplified the determination of self-employment and aligned processing time with other assistance programs. Click here to read more.

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