Durbin, Colleagues Introduce Bill To Counter Safety Net Cuts Pushed By Trump Administration

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in introducing the Allowing Steady Savings by Eliminating Tests (ASSET) Act to eliminate asset limits for three vital public assistance programs and raise asset limits for a fourth program. The bill presents an alternative vision for vital public assistance programs. Rather than shredding the safety net by imposing new bureaucratic hurdles for families, as proposed by President Trump in his budget released this week, the ASSET Act would increase the financial security of low-income families by helping them save for the future and move towards self-sufficiency.

“Public assistance programs like TANF and SNAP are supposed to lift families out of poverty, not punish them for saving money for medical emergencies, education, or retirement. Arbitrary asset limits on public assistance programs wrongfully punish working families for building a nest egg and are counterintuitive to breaking the cycle of poverty,” said Durbin. “With the ASSET Act, we’re pushing back against these limitations and ensuring that families can receive the financial support they need without sacrificing the savings they’ve worked so hard to build up.”

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) help low-income families, particularly those with children, meet basic needs like food and heating. However, these public assistance programs currently limit eligibility for benefits on the basis of not only income, but the assets of a family, such as savings and other resources. Asset limits for savings are outdated and often set as low as $1,000 or $2,000, limiting a family’s preparedness for a medical emergency or other unanticipated expense. The ASSET Act would eliminate these savings penalties, reducing administrative costs and resulting in a consistent policy across the country, since many states have already eliminated asset limits.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program reduces extreme poverty among the elderly and people with disabilities. While asset limits are part of the SSI program design, limits have not 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.

In addition to Durbin, Coons, and Brown, the ASSET Act is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Bob Casey (D-PA).

The bill is endorsed by Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Children’s HealthWatch, Coalition on Human Needs, Delaware Community Legal Aid Society, Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Food Bank of Delaware, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), First Focus Campaign for Children, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Women’s Law Center, Prosperity Now, REACH Riverside, United Way of Delaware, and UnidosUS.

The bill text is available here.

The one-pager is available here.