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More than 7,200 people who won at least $1,000 from the Michigan Lottery in 2013 were receiving public assistance at the time. That includes 18 people who won more than $100,000, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services.

It’s a reason to reconsider laws that prohibit the state from closing or reducing benefits to many of those winners, according to Maura Corrigan, director of Michigan’s Department of Human Services.

The 7,216 winning tickets for those receiving public assistance amounted to roughly $44 million in payouts, with an average prize of $6,056. But big winners are in little danger of losing their benefits.

“This means a multi-million dollar lottery winner can still qualify for certain assistance and benefits,” Corrigan wrote in the recent Lottery Match Report for 2014. “Clearly, there is potential for big savings should regulations be changed to allow for lottery winnings to be considered assets when determining eligibility for certain federal assistance programs.”

By matching winners with benefits information, the Department of Human Services was able to close 810 cases relating to 977 different benefits among the over $1,000 crowd. According to the Lottery Match Report, those were mostly food assistance and Medicaid cases. Those closures resulted in a savings of $2 million.

“Recently, an even larger winner of more than $4 million was identified rapidly...,” Corrigan wrote. “That recipient’s food assistance case was also shut down immediately.”

Corrigan goes on to cite a provision included in the proposed Farm Bill of 2014 that would close what many consider a loophole. That section reads: “Any household in which a member received substantial lottery or gambling winnings... shall lose eligibility benefits immediately upon receipt of winnings.”

The issue of who should be able to receive public assistance was thrust into the spotlight in Michigan three years ago when Amanda Clayton of Lincoln Park won a prize of $735,000 before taxes. After claiming her prize, she continued to receive food and medical benefits totaling more than $5,000.

In response, Gov. Rick Snyder and state elected officials passed a law requiring lottery officials to provide information on new winners to the Department of Human Services.

JLynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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