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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lottery Winners Face New Garnishment Hurdle

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Oregon will soon check whether lottery winners owe money to the state because they received too much public assistance. It's a new law that takes effect in January.

If you win big -- defined here as $600 or more -- the Lottery will cross-check your name with a separate list the state maintains of people who were overpaid certain public assistance benefits, such as food stamps, or payments for medical procedures.

If you're on that list, the state will keep what you owe them before the Lottery pays out the balance.

Sometimes the state inadvertently overpays those benefits because people get better paying jobs and don't let the state know in time to stop or reduce their next payments. The state estimates Oregonians owe back more than $56 million in these overpayments.

Garnishing lottery winnings is only expected to claw back just $100,000 per year. Most of that will be returned to the federal government, which funds many of the public assistance benefits in the first place.

The new law does not supersede an existing separate law that allows the state to garnish winnings from those who owe unpaid child support. The delinquent child support will be collected before any public assistance overpayments are recovered.

The threshold to trigger a garnishment is higher for video lottery players. That's because video lottery retailers can pay out winnings up to $1,250, and those winnings would not be subject to the garnishment process.