Woman Denied Public Assistance Because of Her New Car

Published: Jul. 27, 2006 at 7:19 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2006 at 1:19 PM CDT
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by Ramonica R. Jones

Stephanie Drinkard is a single stay-at-home mom with two little girls. She moved back to Nacogdoches a month ago from Louisiana. There, she was on Section 8 housing, food stamps, and Medicaid, but she can't get that help in Texas because of a contest she won back in October.

"I went online and entered," said Drinkard. "I didn't know I was gonna win it. Only like two people won - it was me and somebody else - but it's a 2006 Limited Edition Toyota Avalon and it's like a $40,000 car."

And $40,000 exceeds the limit the state sets for people on public assistance. An email from the Department of Health and Human Services said a car's value needs to be under a certain amount to meet eligibility requirements for their programs.

"I got everything cut off in Louisiana and when I came down here, I applied for food stamps, I applied for Medicaid, and I transferred my housing. They took a while getting to me - the food stamp office - and when they finally got to me they denied me food stamps, they denied me Medicaid because of my car."

Paperwork Drinkard filled out when applying for help does ask what kind of car she drives. She asked if she could put the car in someone else's name, but was told no. Her kitchen cabinets are bare and her kids are now behind on their immunizations. That leaves her with two options.

"I either have to sell the car and not have any transportation or just live off what we're living off of, which is like rice, basically, we have rice."

A spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services said case workers have to look at assets and family income when providing benefits. It's their way of determining if clients are really in need of help.

Stephanie Drinkard is appealing the state's decision to deny her benefits.