In Illinois, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients cannot have more than $3,000 in assets for a family of three. Assets include college savings accounts, emergency funds and second cars.
The Heartlands Alliance’s Lucy Mullany coordinates the Illinois Asset Building Group, an organization that was key in pushing the bill through.
“A lot of research shows that any asset test makes families feel they can’t save anything,” Mullany said.
She says that is confusing for families who are told saving will help them escape poverty.
Opponents of the bill argue that current limits ensure that the state only spends money to support people who really need it.
But Mullany says other restrictions since welfare reform ensure only the poorest of the poor are on TANF and eliminating the asset test will save money. She says last year, Illinois spent nearly a million dollars to enforce the asset test. But they only found eight people who were over the limit and some of those were only over by a few hundred dollars.
The bill is now on its way to Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk.
Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @shannon_h