Third time may well be the charm for a New York bill that would stop welfare recipients from using public-assistance cash to gamble or buy booze, cigarettes, and lap dances.
Yesterday, the state Senate voted 53-4 to prohibit electronic benefits transfer (EBT) withdrawals from ATMs located at strip joints, pornography shops, casinos, and liquor stores. Beneficiaries would also be forbidden from using their public-assistance money from buying alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets, and anyone caught doing so three times or more would be permanently disqualified from receiving direct-cash or EBT benefits.
Twice before, New York state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver (D., Manhattan) has stopped similar legislation from making it to the floor for a vote. But under the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, New York is required to implement more rigorous checks on welfare abuse. If the bill fails to pass, the state stands to lose up to $122 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding.
The bill notes that in eleven New York counties, “tens and thousands of dollars in cash assistance had been withdrawn from ATMs located at adult entertainment clubs, [off-track betting sites], liquor stores and beverage and tobacco retailers.”
Last year, the New York Post reported that welfare recipients had “us[ed] their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; the Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in Tribeca; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.”