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Michigan cuts off food aid for $1-million lottery winner

March 08, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Beware of too much good luck, warns a classic Greek myth – a lesson that a Michigan woman who won a $1-million state lottery jackpot has learned the hard way.

Michigan’s Department of Human Services has cut off $200 a month in food aid to Amanda Clayton in the wake of media reports that she had won $1 million in the state lottery in September. To make matters worse for Clayton, who lives in Lincoln Park near Detroit, her case has been turned over to state anti-fraud officials.

"DHS relies on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status,” Department of Human Services Director Maura D. Corrigan said in a prepared statement. “If they are not, and continue to accept benefits, they may face criminal investigation and be required to pay back those benefits.”

Clayton, who has two children, won the lottery in September but never told state officials that her wealth status had changed. The 24-year-old woman used the jackpot money to buy a new home and car, but continued to get $200 a month from the state to feed her family, relatives have told local television and newspaper reporters.
 
When WDIV-TV,  a local television station, reported on the case, it played into an effort in the state capital to limit taxpayer-funded benefits to people who are eligible or to eliminate them for people who have had the good luck to move on. That effort was sparked by a similar case in which a man who won $2 million in the lottery in 2010 kept receiving food benefits until last spring.

“Michigan DHS does not currently have the ability to verify a person’s lottery winnings in determining benefit eligibility, but bills pending in the state Legislature would require the Michigan Lottery to notify DHS of lottery winners,” Corrigan said in the statement released Wednesday.  “We fully support this proposed change. Our office of inspector general will continue to vigorously pursue any and all abuse and fraud in the welfare system.”

Michigan state Rep. Dale Zorn, the principal sponsor of the measure -- which has passed the state House -- has argued that the bill is needed, especially in these tough financial times.

“State assistance, our tax dollars, is meant to go to those who are truly in need,” Zorn, a Republican, said.  “It's not meant to go to those who won big in the lottery.”

In classical Greece and Rome, hubris or even just good luck was something of which to be wary since it often singled out the recipient and made the person a target of the gods. There was even a goddess in charge of rebalancing the scales: the aptly named Nemesis.

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