As a nation, we support programs and policies that encourage saving for retirement, for our children’s education, for homeownership. Our tax code supports retirement and education savings by not taxing funds put into accounts specific to those purposes. From coast to coast, asset development programs are touted as a critical tool in helping to lift people out of poverty.
Unfortunately, there’s an implicit double standard in many states, including here in New York. When people have been able to squirrel away these types of savings – and then fall below the poverty line and apply for public assistance, they are forced to empty their accounts before they apply.
It’s a double standard that a growing number of states are choosing to jettison from their public benefits programs. Empire Justice Center’s new report, “Driven into Poverty: How New York’s Asset Tests Keep People Poor” explores this double standard. The report makes the case for policy change that recognizes that it’s counter-intuitive to make people who have scrimped, saved and pinched pennies for the future impoverish themselves to get the temporary help they need to make ends meet.
Here at Empire Justice Center, we will be working to ensure that New York’s low income families can build that all-important path out of poverty by pushing for the elimination of asset tests that undermine that goal. We hope you will join us learning more about the issue and staying informed as we advocate for statewide change.