Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced on Feb. 11 the Allowing Steady Savings by Eliminating Tests, or ASSET, Act to eliminate asset limits as a means of eligibility for three vital public assistance programs and raise asset limits for a fourth program.

Reps. TJ Cox, D-California, Kim Schrier, D-Washington, and Jimmy Gomez, D-California, introduced companion legislation in the House.

The bill presents an alternative vision for vital public assistance programs. Rather than shredding the safety net by imposing new bureaucratic hurdles for families, as proposed by President Donald Trump in his budget released this week, the ASSET Act would increase the financial security of low-income families by helping them save for the future and move towards self-sufficiency.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program help low-income families, particularly those with children, meet basic needs like food and heating. However, currently, these public assistance programs limit eligibility for benefits on the basis of not only income, but the assets of a family, such as savings and other resources. Asset limits for savings are outdated and often set as low as $1,000 or $2,000, limiting a family’s preparedness for a medical emergency or unanticipated expense. The ASSET Act would eliminate these savings penalties, reducing administrative costs and resulting in a consistent policy across the country.

The Supplemental Security Income program reduces extreme poverty among the elderly and people with disabilities. While asset limits are part of the SSI program design, limits have not been raised or even adjusted for inflation since 1989. The ASSET Act raises SSI asset limits from $2,000 to $10,000 for an individual and $3,000 to $20,000 for a couple, and indexes those thresholds to inflation.

“The federal government already imposes too much red tape and misguided incentives in public assistance programs,” said Coons. “That’s why we’re proposing a different reform, to remove asset tests, so that families in times of need can get help with less confusion, less paperwork, and without being penalized for saving and building their own financial security.”

The bill text is available at bit.ly/38i7kPq.