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Public assistance pulled from lottery winner

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:39 AM EST, Thu March 8, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A Michigan woman who won a $1 million lottery prize is no longer receiving food aid
  • NEW: Agency says it "relies on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status"
  • Lottery winner said she was unemployed and "struggling"
  • A state lawmaker wants assistance for such winners ended

(CNN) -- A Michigan woman who won the lottery but continued to receive food assistance from the state government has had her benefits pulled, officials said.

Amanda Clayton hit it big playing the Michigan Lottery. Like many winners, she used her $1 million prize to buy a new house.

But the Lincoln Park, Michigan, resident continued to receive money in another form -- $200 a month in state food assistance, according to CNN Detroit affiliate WDIV.

Her story made headlines, and on Thursday, the state's Department of Human Services announced that she is no longer getting the benefits.

According to Michigan law, welfare recipients must report any changes in assets or income to the agency within 10 days.

The department "relies on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status. If they are not, and continue to accept benefits, they may face criminal investigation and be required to pay back those benefits," Director Maura Corrigan said in a statement.

She said the agency supports new legislation that would verify whether lottery winners receive state benefits.

"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, 24, told WDIV when it asked whether it was appropriate for her to receive the money.

A state lawmaker is trying to stop such assistance, which is not illegal. He says the food assistance should not go to those who have found riches through the lottery.

"We need to continue to protect our taxpayers' dollars ... and taxpayer dollars should be going to those who really do need assistance," Michigan Rep. Dale Zorn of Ida Township told HLN's Vinnie Politan on Wednesday.

In October, Clayton walked away with $1 million in the "Make Me Rich!" lottery game show. She also bought a car, WDIV reported.

After taking a lump sum and paying taxes, the unemployed woman said she ended up with just more than $500,000.

Asked if she had the right to the public assistance money, Clayton answered, "I kind of do. I have no income, and I have bills to pay. I have two houses."

Zorn said the state House has passed bills on the matter. One would require a state agency to conduct an assets test if a citizen wins more than $1,000 in lottery earnings. "That will trigger whether or not the people are eligible to receive public assistance."

The legislature has not approved any final measures.

Clayton told WDIV she had wanted to continue using a food-assistance card until it is cut off. "It's hard. I am struggling."

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