AUGUSTA — Maine gambling winners will be banned from receiving food stamps according to a new Department of Health and Human Services rule.

DHHS has been mulling the rule change since 2015, when the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting revealed that nearly 3,700 public assistance recipients won $22 million in lottery prizes since 2010, a sum that would require hundreds of millions of dollars in spending.

It’s similar to another rule from the department in 2015 that limited food stamps to people with less than $5,000 in certain assets. The Legislature passed a bill this year banning the purchase of lottery tickets, alcohol and tobacco with cash assistance.

This test, however, is an old concept. After establishing a lottery in 1984, California instituted a rule matching people on lottery and welfare rolls. Michigan established a $5,000 asset test in 2012, removing more than 800 people from public assistance the next year to save $2 million, according to the center.

In a statement, DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew said, “In no way, shape or form should taxpayers be asked to foot the bill for someone who is gambling and winning huge amounts of money.”

However, a 2012 review of asset tests by the progressive New America found that the number of welfare cases closed because of asset limits is low. Over one year in Idaho, it was 2.2 percent and lower in other places. The study also said such limits discourage savings by having a threshold too low to pay for emergency expenses.

This story will be updated.


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