Asset Limits

Many states impose both income and asset tests in determining eligibility for public assistance. Although asset limits are intended to ensure that programs serve only those who truly need the benefits, asset limits create a barrier to financial security and upward mobility for public benefit recipients. Polices that restrict eligibility for public assistance programs to households with minimal assets discourage savings and encourage participants to “spend down” resources needed for long-term security in order to obtain short-term assistance. The following assets are typically counted against applicants and recipients in public benefit programs: savings accounts over $2,000, vehicles, and non-pension retirement savings, college savings plans.

States have authority to reform asset rules in state-administered assistance programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, the state children’s health insurance program (SCHIP), and, to a lesser extent, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to make the rules simple, efficient, and fair and to encourage saving and asset building.

There are three options for reforming asset limits:
  • Eliminate asset limits in benefits programs
  • Raise the asset limit
  • Exclude categories of assets, such as retirement savings, education savings accounts, vehicles and health savings accounts.

Resources:

Sample Letter to Legislator Regarding Asset Limits

Description: This is a template for a letter to the legislature on reforming asset limits.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


AB 1058 CA Workforce Mobility & Savings Initiative (2009)

Description: Bill text of AB 1058 - legislation to reform the asset limit in California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS) program and encourage low-income families to build savings.
Author Name: New America Foundation
Organization Type: National Intermediary


Asset Limits Sample Talking Points

Description: This document provides sample talking points for advocates.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Asset Limits Checklist for Advocates

Description: This is a checklist of activities for advocates working on reforming asset limits.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Asset Limit Rule for Categorical Eligibility

Description: This is a template for an asset limit rule for categorical eligibility.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Reforming State Rules on Asset Limits How to Remove Barriers to Saving and Asset Accumulation in Public Benefit Programs

Description: This article describes state options and advocacy strategies to eliminate or reduce barriers to saving and asset building for recipients of state-administered public benefit programs and discusses reforms that some states have adopted.
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Fact Sheet for Eliminating TANF Asset Test

Description: This is a template for a fact sheet on legislation eliminating the TANF asset test.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Asset Limit Rule Change for TANF

Description: This is a template for an asset limit rule change for TANF.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Asset Limits Sample Fact Sheet

Description: This is a sample fact sheet on asset limits
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Legislation Eliminating Asset Limits

Description: This is a template for state legislation eliminating asset limits.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Letter to State Agency Requesting Asset Limit Rule Change

Description: This is a template for a letter to a state agency requesting asset limit rule changes.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Personal Stories on Asset Limits

Description: An important part of advocating for asset limit reform in your state is finding individuals who have been negatively affected by these rules. Highlighting these stories will help politicians and the media put a face with what you are doing. This human face is essential if you are working to change the current levels using legislative advocacy. This document contains examples of testimony from individuals who were negatively affected by the TANF asset test in the State of Colorado.
Organization Type: Coalition


AB 1058 FactSheet - CA Workforce Mobility & Savings Initiative (2009)

Description: A FActsheet on AB 1058 - legistlation to reform the asset limit in California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS) program and encourage low-income families to build savings to permenantly exit welfare.
Author Name: New America Foundation
Organization Type: National Intermediary


"Asset Limit Reform: Policy, Practice, Research & Advocacy Tools" (September 2008)

Description: The presentation highlights recent state and federal asset limit reforms.
Author Name: Dory Rand (Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law)
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Comment Letter to State Agency on Proposed Asset Limit Rule Change

Description: This is a template for a comment letter to a state agency on a proposed asset limit rule change.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Asset Limit Rule Change for Medicaid

Description: This is a template for an asset limit rule change for Medicaid.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


"Ineligible to Save? Asset Limits and the Savings Behavior of Welfare Recipients" (August 2006)

Description: This paper focuses specifically on how asset limits influence the perceptions and behaviors of current benefit recipients.
Author Name: Rourke O'Brien (New America Foundation)
Organization Type: National Intermediary


Sample Legislation Raising Asset Limits

Description: This is a template for state legislation raising asset limits.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


Sample Asset Limit Rule Change for General Assistance

Description: This is a template for an asset limit rule change for General Assistance.
Author Name: Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Organization Type: Nonprofit


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