$2 Million Dollar Lottery Winner Still Using Food Stamps
In the United States the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the food stamp program, provides assistance purchasing food for low income families. The program was started during the great depression and since then millions of low income Americans have benefited from the program. Income requirements are stringent to prevent fraud. Despite all of the safeguards designed to prevent fraud many people with higher incomes are receiving. One of the most egregious cases involves a Michigan lottery winner.
In Auburn Michigan a man who won a $2 million dollar lottery jackpot playing the Michigan lottery game ‘Make me Rich.’ Leroy Fick, 59, of Bay County took home an $850,000 lump sum payout. Fick used the jackpot to purchase a new home and bought an Audi convertible. To buy groceries Fick is still using his so called ‘bridge card’ which is Michigan’s version of the food stamp program. The bridge card works much like a debit card and each month a certain amount is loaded onto the bridge card.
Since Fick’s case came to light many are questioning how a person who won such a large sum can continue to receive state benefits. Fick remains unrepentant and told reporters “If you’re going to … try to make me feel bad, you aren’t going to do it.” Fick’s lawyer says Fick’s actions are perfectly legal. Fick’s attorney, John Wilson of Midland, stated “He’s not trying to cheat the state. Based on his income, he’s eligible. He specifically called the Department of Human Services and said, ‘Can I still use the Bridge Card?’ and they said, ‘Yes,’ because he is eligible. He’s done everything right in the eyes of the law.”
A glitch in federal regulations allows Fick to continue to receive benefits. Michigan uses federal guidelines to determine eligibility and since Fick is unemployed and receives Social Security disability benefits his income qualifies Fick for the bridge card. Fick’s $850,000 is considered an asset not income. Under current state policy Fick can continue to receive food stamps despite the fact that he has hundreds of thousands in the bank.
Many are not pleased with Fick’s abuse of the program. State representative Charles Brunner is not pleased that Fick continues to receive benefits. Brunner stated “This angers me. It really makes me angry. The thing that really bothers me is [that] in our state we have so many people out of work…so many people in need of assistance, and for a lottery winner to get food stamps. If it’s a glitch in the law, we’ve got to fix it now.” Brunner has introduced legislation that would enable the state to factor in assets when determining eligibility for the food stamp program.
Fick’s lawyer said his client will stop using the bridge card if the legislature changes the eligibility requirements. He also said Fick feels no remorse for using food stamps because he just paid over $1 million dollars in taxes on his lottery jackpot.