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Senate Republicans want restrictions on welfare spending

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BY SHANNON LUIBRAND

Recipients of welfare will no longer be able to use their Cash Assistance to purchase cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets or for casino gambling under a proposal from the Senate Republicans that was touted on Tuesday.

Co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. James L. Seward, R-Milford, said this bill will prevent people from abusing the welfare system. “Public assistance is meant to provide essentials for families and individuals in need. It is not a discretionary slush fund,” Seward said in a statement. “While most people who receive this assistance use it for its intended purpose, there are others who abuse the system and they need to be stopped.”

The benefits Welfare recipients receive, Food Stamps and Cash Assistance, can be administered through their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) debit card. According to Seward, the bill will prevent welfare recipients from using their EBT card to make ATM withdrawals at places such as casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs. While Food Stamps are more strict in what can be purchased with them, Cash Assistance has been more flexible.

State Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said it is unconscionable how some people on welfare take advantage of tax-payer funded benefits they receive. "Public assistance benefits are supposed to go toward food and other basic necessities, and not be misused to purchase alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets, or be withdrawn from ATMs at liquor stores and strip clubs."

Seward added, “Legitimate expenses like housing, utilities, or school supplies for children should be permitted through public assistance."

Video of Seward talking about the proposal is available below.

The federal government has mandated all states establish a system of fraud prevention by next February. If New York does not, they will be forfeiting millions of dollars in federal assistance. The Public Assistance Integrity bill passed the Senate by a vote of 51-9 and will go on to the assembly, where companion legislation was not introduced.

“New Yorkers are compassionate and want to help those in need provide for their families,” Seward said. “What they don’t want is to see tax dollars spent for someone’s illegal drug habit, or to buy drinks at the corner bar.”

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