Lottery winners on welfare stir outrage in Michigan

Though the state has enacted a law aimed at preventing it, 3,500 people were found collecting benefits.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 17, 2013 3:20PM
Image: Lottery Tickets (© Scott Speakes/Corbis/Corbis)The idea that people would continue collecting public assistance even after winning a lottery strikes a nerve with many law-abiding taxpayers. Which is why many people thought it was especially galling when Michigan officials announced this week that they had found 3,500 jackpot winners either collected government benefits or lived with people who did.

Several well-publicized cases of miscreant lottery winners have galvanized state officials. For instance, Amanda Clayton of the Detroit area was caught last year collecting welfare after winning a $735,000 jackpot. She later died of a drug overdose.

So legislators enacted a law in 2012 requiring that the state match a list of people who have won $1,000 or more from the lottery with another one showing people who receive public assistance.

According to The Associated Press, about 14% of Michigan lottery winners either receive welfare or live in a household with people who collect benefits. State officials point out that the winners took home an average of $6,800. That's helpful, but it isn't a life-changing event, the wire service noted.

Michigan officials have tried to means-test welfare benefits, but some benefits aren't covered by the tests and only 565 cases were closed as the result of the 2012 law.

North Carolina officials are going down the same path as Michigan's. Legislators there have drafted a law that would forbid people on welfare or in bankruptcy from buying lottery tickets, according to the Huffington Post. How such a far-reaching law would be enforced isn't clear.

Efforts to crack down on welfare recipients who win lottery prizes are ironic, given that lotteries are often criticized as being a "tax on the poor" because they're heavily marketed to that group. In fact, a 2008 study found that people who earn less than $13,000 spend a staggering 9% of their earnings on lottery tickets.

Occasionally, as in the case of Dominican immigrant Pedro Quezada, people strike it rich.  Quezada recently won a $338 million PowerBall jackpot and has agreed to pay the rent and mortgage payments of his neighbors.

But not all lottery stories have a happy ending. Earlier this year, an Illinois man died from cyanide poisoning a day after winning a $1 million jackpot. And Dorice "Dee Dee" Moore was convicted last year of murdering Florida lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Apr 17, 2013 3:55PM
I think all states ought to enact laws that anybody that wins over a million ought to have to repay any welfare and food stamps benefits they have received over the last ten years from any state in the U.S.  If they collected 144,000 over the last ten years at $1200 a month, they should have to pay that back.  Why should everybody get a temporary handout and then get rich and walk away without repaying the favor?  I'm not saying they should repay everything they collected over their lifetime, but ten years isn't being ridiculous.  People look at benefits as if it is free stuff.  We need to change that attitude.  Perhaps they will give the ticket so someone else to cash, but if it were me, I'd rather keep the ticket in my name and pay back the benefits than to give the tickets away and have someone cheat me of 100% of it.

It's time to track Welfare and food stamps by Social Security numbers to stop interstate welfare fraud and report benefits to the IRS.

Apr 17, 2013 4:32PM
Anyone collecting welfare should be required to pass a drug test in order to qualify.
Apr 17, 2013 4:17PM
Apr 17, 2013 3:43PM
If you can't afford to care for yourself and family on your own you shouldn't be buying lottery tickets with the state given money!!

Ever guess that maybe the average worker, providing for their own families, can't afford to take on your responsibilities??

Get a life and a job!!
Apr 17, 2013 3:55PM

if you buy a lottery ticket your funding should be cut, as well as cigarettes or alcohol.  I am tired of funding lazy people who waste money, obviously they have too much if they can afford to spend it on anything other than food, or shelter or basic needs.

Apr 17, 2013 4:17PM
Apr 17, 2013 4:23PM
People on welfare should be working. There should be no free ride. There should be rules from the state and federal government specifically outlining where these funds must be spent and no on lottery tickets, scratch offs, booze. cigarettes, etc. This program should be the number one program the federal looks at to cut back on before Social Security or Medicare. Millions of Americans take advantage of this program and it continues to be overlooked. Our President , Senators, and Congressmen/Ladies are afraid to address this program for they will loose votes come reelection. It's time to stand up americans for we will go bankrupt if we continue this program. How many of these people have paid into the system. I can tell you there are millions that haven't. In order to be eligible for welfare you should have worked at least for 10 years to be considered. Anything less you are not eligible.
Apr 17, 2013 4:22PM

Amanda Clayton of the Detroit area was caught last year collecting welfare after winning a $735,00[0] jackpot. "She later ." That says it all.


Gives case to wonder if welfare wasn't her vehicle to drugs in the first place. So many are against drug testing for welfare recipients, BUT let's see how many of those against it are tax payers.

Apr 17, 2013 3:42PM
Too bad so many of the winners are really losers!
Apr 17, 2013 3:46PM
The government needs to have a way to trace the winners income. A simple tax return would divilge any info needed. I feel if help is needed we should give it. When the need goes away, people should be honest enough to stop taking that help. Doesn't seem to work that way.
Apr 17, 2013 4:14PM
why don't states give out welfare/child support/cash benefits only on debt cards without the ability to get back cash or withdraw cash? It is a very rare situation when cash is the only accepted currency now adays. this way government can track spending and question purchases accordingly.

Apr 17, 2013 4:18PM
since the government subsidized the winning tickets, it should be enabled to collect all of the winnings and use them toward the deficit. all these people did in reality was purchase the tickets on the governments behalf..
Apr 17, 2013 4:28PM
LOL this is so typical.  Better yet though are the people who win millions of dollars and end up on welfare in a few years.  I went to school with a woman who hit it big in PA.  Her and her husband and 2 kids moved out of their house and lived in a fancy hotel...ate every meal out at a restaurant, went on tons of vacations...and about 6 years after bringing home $30 million they were broke and collecting from the system.  Gotta love it!
Apr 17, 2013 3:47PM
After our country goes bankrupt we will all be on wellfare from China. I hope they have since of humor.
Apr 17, 2013 4:05PM
that typical city government that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Bad
Apr 17, 2013 4:31PM

How's this any different from all the welfare we already give the rich. lol.


I'm willing to bet the oil companies not paying any taxes and getting billions in refunds cost about as much in one year as this does in 500.. Yet we'll be all indignant about this vile practice, and ignore the one that's much, much worse.


Personally I think we need to stop both. But I'm tired of hearing about social welfare bilking and hearing exactly zero about corporate welfare bilking-- even though that cost taxpayers staggering amount of money above and beyond.  They should be one in the same, and talked about at the same time.


I think the most annoying trend is when people are so against this kind of thing, yet are perfectly fine with corporate welfare.


Maybe some large fines all around? The more bilked the larger the fine?

Apr 17, 2013 4:20PM
I am so sick of the negativity that generates from these articles.  Why do people judge others because of what they do and what they receive from the state? Greedy welfare recipients, huh? Not all on state money are greedy; some spend all their lives not getting a dime from state, then all of a sudden wham! A woman or man loses their spouse, and have to collect. A woman is in an accident and can't work, and have to collect.  A single parent loses their job because of outsourcing and guess what? they have to collect. Most of these people  have never been on it, but are faced with having no choice but to.  Instead of pointing the finger at the recipients, try pointing the finger at the GREEDY heads of state and GREEDY lawmakers, and GREEDY CEO's, screw up the economy making it impossible to keep a job and force hard working Americans to get on state assistance.  If you've paid your taxes and all of a sudden need help from those taxes, why do they need to be lumped in with the ones who are habitual public aid receivers? Did you know in some states, all you need to do is turn in 20 empty pop cans and you can get a dollar? spending a dollar a week on a dream for a better life is not that terrible.  Instead of wagging your fingers at people who YOU ALL apparently think don't deserve to have a little hope in their lives, try showing a little compassion, empathy and kindness.  Not everyone on welfare is a deadbeat. 
Apr 17, 2013 4:03PM
although the overriding point is very sensitive, the fact is that most state lotteries target the poorest individuals when structuring the lottery. the state knows that an extremely high  percentage of the participants will come from the bottom of the ladder. so when you want to get down in the gutter for government revenue, you risk getting dirty.
Apr 17, 2013 3:55PM
people, its Michigan.  the state that has labor unions and Detroit.  both are the same as free loaders.  plus, in the heart of the muslim silent jihad.  who can be shocked by this. 
Apr 17, 2013 4:43PM

Hey, taking a shot at winning the lottery is fun!  But, if you win, you are off the programs.  Even winning $6 grand will mean you are off the programs for a couple of months.


Welfare is a safety net.  It needs to be there when people fall into bad times.  Welfare shouldn't be a hammock for rest and relaxation.  After 2-3 months, you get out of bed every morning and report to a local community center.  You punch in promptly at 8:00 a.m.  The Government entities (counties, cities, schools, libraries, highway departments, parks, etc.) who need workers can show up and select who they need to do whatever jobs are waiting that day.  If you have kids, bring them.  Some of the people will be assigned to watch them (like day care).  Others will be learning all about cooking to feed everyone.  If there isn't work to do, then sit right there and brush up on your math and language skills.  Learn about money management.  There are lots of things you can learn.  Then you punch out at 5:00 p.m. and go home.  If you don't show up, no welfare money.


If an employer wants to hire you at minimum wage, welfare kicks in a buck or two more until you get a raise (max time limit of a year).


Lets end the "give me for doing nothing" syndrome.  Build work ethic.  Stop people from collecting in multiple states.  The timeclock governs all.

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