Preventing Welfare Waste

Starting in May, welfare recipients will be stripped of their ability to use EBT cards for adult entertainment purposes.

Legislation included in the state budget halts public assistance recipients from making Electronic Benefit Transfer card payments or cash withdrawals at liquor stores, beer wholesalers, casinos, racetracks and strip clubs, helping to prevent inappropriate purchases.

“People’s voices in support of welfare reform were heard all the way to Albany, and we are making progress toward implementing common-sense policies that provide support to those who truly need help while stopping welfare fraud and waste,” said state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, who cosponsored a Senate bill toward the prevention of welfare abuse. Young said more than 2,000 of her constituents contacted her in support of the legislation.

“Every day, I hear from frustrated people from my district who witness welfare fraud and abuse, and feel powerless to fix it,” she said. “I am thrilled to report that their voices were heard and made a significant difference.”

A federal law passed by Congress last year required states to demonstrate meaningful reforms by complying with federal standards that ban EBT card withdrawals at ATMs in liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos.

While some individuals receive benefits through the form of food stamps contained on a card similar to a credit card, other times cash assistance is provided in the same manner.

Cash can be withdrawn at ATMs, or used like a debit card in some locations.

“I think it’s appropriate when the state provides welfare recipients with money to meet their basic needs, but I don’t believe that spending money at strip clubs, liquor stores or gambling establishments is consistent with meeting basic needs,” said Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown.

While the Senate had previously passed legislation for welfare reform three times, bills cosponsored by Goodell were blocked in the Assembly.

If New York state failed to make the required changes, it stood to lose $122 million of federal funding for needy families. Therefore, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included the reform legislation in his approved state budget.

Goodell said money provided by state taxpayers used inappropriately defeats the purpose of the funding.

“This is not money earned through the recipient’s own efforts, but rather money given to them through the efforts of others,” he said.

Young agreed, and said there should be a safety net for those who fall on hard times and need a temporary helping hand. However, efforts need to be made to crack down on fraud and abuse.

“Welfare abuse takes away resources from the truly needy and places a suffocating weight on our hardworking, overburdened taxpayers,” she said.

The new restriction at strip clubs will take effect May 30.