New York state has reclaimed nearly $20 million in lottery prizes since 2013 from winners who had received public assistance in the last 10 years.
The little-known program, one of the toughest of its kind in the country, has grabbed back prizes from an estimated 30,000 winners in the last four years.
At least six other states have similar programs, but New York is the only state that seizes prizes of those on public assistance, experts said. Other programs take back unpaid child support payments or unpaid taxes.
Here’s how it works: Lottery players who win prizes of more than $600 can only get their prizes at state lottery centers. There, lottery officials process winners’ Social Security numbers and other identifying information to determine, among other things, whether they’ve received public assistance over the last 10 years.
If they have, the state can seize up to 50 percent of the winner’s payout to help pay back what they’ve gotten in welfare. The state cannot take more than what a recipient received in welfare.
Welfare recipients can contest it if they believe they are wrongly penalized. In 2016, winners appealed 667 times and won their appeals 476 times, according to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.