The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Asset Limit: Reports of Its Death May Be Exaggerated

Working Paper Number: 
WP 15-06

It is reported that 35 states no longer impose asset limits for eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), reversing a policy that had been in effect until 2000 limiting liquid assets to $2000 for most households. Our research shows that information provided by state and federal websites for prospective SNAP applicants in most of these states is inconsistent with this policy. For 28 of the 35 states which were reported to have eliminated asset tests, the state website, or a state-specific federal website, provided information indicating that an asset limit was in effect. We suspect that this does not reflect a conscious policy but rather a lack of administrative attention, in combination with the complexity of broad-based categorical eligibility. Whatever its source, this discrepancy discourages eligible individuals from applying for SNAP, violates policy transparency, and blunts public policy benefits that may accrue from elimination of the asset test.

JEL Codes: 
H53, I38

Colleen M. Heflin

Jacob M. Cronin