According to a study, 25 percent of Michigan households receive food assistance—hardly a surprising figure considering today's economic picture. What is surprising, however, is that one of those homes is home to a millionaire.
This fall, 24-year-old Amanda Clayton won $1 million from the Michigan State Lottery. Sure, someone else getting handed a huge check might make some a little jealous, but many were outraged at Clayton's winnings, as she was still using a Bridge card.
"People are about to lose their unemployment and these welfare recipients are spending our tax dollars foolishly," an upset tax payer wrote to Local 4. "Please do a story on lottery winners on welfare."
Local 4 tracked Clayton down to her Lincoln Park home where cameras spotted her and a U-Haul truck, getting ready to move into a new house—that she paid for in cash—now that she has struck it rich. She also bought a new car.
These purchases are nothing out of the ordinary for someone who just won the lottery, however hidden cameras followed Clayton grocery shopping, where she admitted she uses a Bridge card to pay for her items. She said she gets $200 each month, from taxpayers, to foot her food bill.
When confronted, Clayton said she didn't think she was doing anything wrong.
"I thought that they would cut me off, but since they didn't, I thought maybe it was okay because I'm not working," she said.
She said she didn't actually get the full million, because after she took a lump sum, the total dropped down to $700,000. After taxes, it was just more than half a million, Clayton said.
Even still, Clayton said she thinks she still has a right to the $200 a month in state funds.
"I feel that it's okay because I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay," she said. "I have two houses."
Needless to say, many taxpayers were quite upset with the situation. The Local 4 Defenders went to Ida Township to speak to Rep. Dale Zorn, who is pushing a bill to stop lottery winners from continuing to cash in on food assistance.
"Public assistance should be given to those in need of public assistance, not those that have found riches," Zorn said.
The bill has already passed the House, and Zorn is hoping it will pass the Senate soon.
"We need to have the lottery commission notify the state so that state can cross check those who are on assistance," Zorn said.
There are two different bills—one in the House, another in the Senate that have each passed which would require lottery winners of prizes of $1,000 or more to have their names cross checked with the Department of Human Services. If someone wins big, their food assistance would then be stopped.
Unless the law changes, it doesn't look like lottery winners will be changing their ways. Clayton said she will keep using her Bridge card until the state cuts her off. She said it's because she deserves it.
"It's just hard, you know. I'm struggling," she said.