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Michigan woman wins $1-million lottery, still collects welfare

March 07, 2012|By Rene Lynch

A Michigan woman who won a $1-million lottery jackpot last fall admits she's continued to collect $200 a month in public assistance. That's not all: The 24-year-old also says she deserves the financial aid because she's now saddled with expenses related to two houses.

Can you hear that bellowing and clanging of pitchforks? That's the sound of Michigan taxpayers' outrage.

The situation came to light this week after the Detroit-area Local 4 station received a hot tip: "Please do a story on lottery winners on welfare."

Local 4 did just that. First, it tracked Amanda Clayton using her public assistance card at a local snack market. Then, it tracked Clayton out to her home, where she was packing up a U-Haul for a move to her new place -- a home she had bought with cash from her lottery earnings, along with a new car.

Clayton, stopped in her driveway, barely flinched when the camera and microphone were thrust in her face. Nor did the single mother of two backpedal; she said she deserves the extra income just like any other taxpayer on public assistance.

"I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn't, I thought maybe it was OK because I'm not working," Clayton told the reporter. "I feel that it's OK because, I mean, I have no income, and I have bills to pay. I have two houses."

Watch the video -- she also quibbles with the reporter who wonders how she can justify taking public aid after winning $1 million on the state's "Make Me Rich!" television show. After taking the lottery payment in a lump sum and paying taxes upfront, she walked away with much less. (Clayton's mother told the media her daughter pocketed about $500,000.)

It's not clear that Clayton is actually doing anything wrong, mind you. She does not have a job, and as a result, does not technically have any income.

But the idea of a lottery winner on welfare does not sit well with Michigan state Rep. Dale Zorn.

The Republican lawmaker has introduced legislation, now pending, that would trigger a state notification whenever a resident wins more than $1,000 in the lottery. He authored that legislation after it was discovered that another Michigan resident, Leroy Fick, continued drawing public assistance after winning a $2-million lottery jackpot in 2010.

The problem, Zorn told The Times on Wednesday, is that many lottery winners opt to take their earnings in a lump sum and pay their taxes upfront. That helps them to largely fly under the radar.

Under Zorn's pending legislation, lottery officials would be required to alert the state's Department of Human Services, which oversees public assistance, whenever a state resident wins more than $1,000.

The winner's name would then be checked against the state's roster of financial aid recipients. Winners would be required to undergo a reassessment to see if they still deserve aid after their financial windfall, he said.

"Public assistance is for those people who can no longer purchase food for their families, or pay their heating bills," Zorn told The Times. "It's not here to help those who win millions of dollars."

For her part, Clayton is no longer talking to the media. But her mother is.

"Until the bill's passed, apparently it's legal, and people need to leave her alone," Euline Clayton told the Detroit News, referring to Zorn's bill. "I'm not saying it's the right thing to do. But it's nobody's business if she's not breaking the law."

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Photo: Lottery winner Amanda Clayton of Lincoln Park, Mich. Credit: Michigan State Lottery

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