Legislator acts to close lottery loophole

May 18, 2011

After news reports circulated that a lottery winner in Michigan was still using food stamps, one state senator has decided to try to close a loophole in state law.

Senator John Moolenaar (R-Midland), released a statement saying he's proposing legislation that would require Michigan lottery officials to share the names of winners with various government departments and immediately remove them from all public assistance programs:

Moolenaar said his office has contacted the Department of Human Services and discovered there is a loophole that needs to be closed.  If the lottery winner had accepted monthly payments instead of a lump sum, the winnings would have been considered as income.

LaNia Coleman from the Bay City Times wrote about lottery winner Leroy Fick last night.

Fick had taken a lump sum payment of $850,000 after winning a $2 million jackpot in the "Make Me Rich!" game. After he won, Fick continued to use government use assistance to buy food - something that is allowed under the law. The Bay City Times spoke with Gisgie D. Gendreau, a DHS public relations director:

“Under federal guidelines, lottery winnings are counted as income when determining whether a person is eligible for food assistance if the client receives regular ongoing payments,” said Gendreau...“Under federal guidelines, if the person received a lump-sum payment, the winnings are not counted.”

Ficks attonery said he's done nothing wrong, saying "he did call the state (Department of Human Services)," said John M. Wilson, the Midland attorney representing Leroy Fick. "Not to mention, the state knows he won. They issued the check."