Philadelphia will soon see sweeping statewide changes to the welfare program, with asset limits imposed on those who want food stamps and mandatory drug testing required for participation in some welfare programs.

“We certainly do live in difficult times, but it’s also difficult times for state and federal governments,” Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman Anne Bale said.

The drug testing requirement signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett last summer means testing randomly for 20 percent of all drug felons who want public welfare assistance. Additionally, a state Department of Public Welfare cost-reduction initiative will deny food stamps to those with a certain amount of assets, such as bank accounts and some homes and vehicles.

The two plans stem from a similar sentiment. “The way they are related is that taxpayers want us to and the government can no longer afford to have a wide variety of people on these programs,” Bale said. “Many of these issues are decisions made by taxpayers — we hear from them constantly.”


A city anti-poverty advocate disputed that notion, however, and said the more stringent qualifications could end up costing taxpayers.

“The cost of hunger is $167.5 billion per year and Pennsylvania is in the top five states. If anything, they ought to be investing more in the food stamp program,” said Mariana Chilton, director of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger Free Communities.

New rules, new restrictions

Disabled Pennsylvanians and those over 60 will be limited to owning $3,250 and $2,000 in assets for all other households.

Assets counted include cash, checking and savings accounts, stocks, bonds and saving certificates and personal property.

The drug-testing requirement of drug felons is only currently in Schuylkill County, but officials hope to expand it statewide July 1, 2012. The law mandates that at least 20 percent receiving cash assistance be tested.

More on welfare reform: Who will be affected and why now? Advocates and the DPW weigh in.

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