Commentary: Welfare Car Test Flunks Sense Test

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, June 27, 2008

A car worth more than $4,650 is not much of a car, but if you own a car worth that much or more you are barred from receiving welfare benefits in California. The $4,650 limit is the most restrictive in the country. Twelve states don’t count cars at all in determining someone’s eligibility for welfare. Another 15 exclude a household’s first car.

Those other states recognize that a reliable car can be necessary to find and keep a job. And that’s why a bill has been introduced in California to bar the state from denying welfare benefits to poor people who own cars.

The change makes sense. Studies have shown that welfare recipients with access to cars are more likely to have jobs. Dropping the car test would also save counties $3 million a year, about what it costs welfare workers statewide to ascertain the make, model and mileage of a welfare applicant’s car, and then “guesstimate” its worth.

In other states, eliminating the car test has not resulted in a spike in benefits. California should dump its test, too. County employees have better things to do than check odometers, and the poor need a way to get to work.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.