Brunner Takes Action to Fix System That Gives Bridge Cards to the Rich

Outraged legislator tells state, feds: “Let’s end this nonsense right now"
Thursday, May 19, 2011

BAY CITY - State Representative Charles Brunner (D-Bay City) is working on immediately closing an outrageous loophole that allows a Lottery winner from Auburn - and countless other Michigan holders of major liquid assets - to continue to use a taxpayer-funded Bridge Card. Today he introduced legislation and took other steps to end this abuse of taxpayer dollars.

“Although I keep getting different answers from different officials, one thing is clear: The state should have, and could have, done something about this abuse of taxpayer dollars long ago,” Brunner said. “Most other states already have closed this loophole that gives Bridge Cards to individuals who have significant money in the bank. It is an absolute outrage that a safety net that exists to help people truly in need - and there are unfortunately plenty of folks in Michigan in that situation right now - has been allowed to be exploited and given a black eye.”

Auburn resident Leroy Fick was allowed to keep using his Bridge Card, an electronic version of food stamps, after winning $2 million from the Michigan Lottery last year because the $850,000 lump sum payment he received is counted as assets, not income, in federal guidelines that determine eligibility for food stamps.

Brunner has been talking with state Department of Human Services (DHS) officials and is taking three main actions to end this abuse of taxpayer dollars immediately:

  • Today Brunner introduced a resolution in the state House calling on Congress to change federal guidelines so that states consider liquid assets when determining eligibility for food assistance.
  • He is demanding that state DHS officials immediately request a waiver so they can consider liquid assets when determining eligibility, regardless of federal rules. A state DHS official acknowledged in a Detroit Free Press article that at least 40 other states already have these waivers.
  • Brunner is also demanding a state investigation into how many other residents are using Bridge Cards despite having significant liquid assets.

“This fiasco is further proof that transparency and accountability are sorely lacking in state government,” Brunner said. “I’m angry about it, and residents have a right to be angry, too, that this abuse of scarce taxpayer resources has been allowed to happen. I am doing everything I can to fix it and make sure that this money goes only to those who are truly in need.”