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New welfare restrictions target booze, tattoos

By Shannon Young

Associated Press

POSTED:



BOSTON >> Taking aim at what they call an abuse of the taxpayers' money, a growing number of states are blocking welfare recipients from spending their benefits on booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets, casino gambling, tattoos and strippers.

"If you're not abusing the program, then you should really have no problem with these reforms," said state Rep. Shaunna O'Connell, a Republican pushing for restrictions in Massachusetts.

While the crackdown has strong populist appeal in Democratic and GOP states alike in this era of tight budgets and tea party demands for fiscal discipline, advocates for the poor argue that the restrictions are based on stereotypes about people on welfare, and they say the notion of any widespread abuse is a myth. Most people on public assistance, they contend, are single mothers struggling just to get by.

The movement has been spurred in part by Congress. Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama in February to extend a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, welfare recipients are barred from using their cash assistance in strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores. States must change their own laws to conform by 2014.

From Arizona to Maine, states have been going even further on their own, adopting or considering legislation to block the use of benefits for other items deemed frivolous. Among them: porn, cruises and psychic readings.

In the past 12 years, at least 10 states passed laws restricting welfare purchases, three of them this year, while at least 14 others are proposing similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Around 4.4 million people received about $30 billion in cash assistance in fiscal year 2011 through the federal-state welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. States set their own eligibility requirements. (An estimated 44.7 million people received food stamps, and that program has long barred people from using their benefits to buy anything other than certain foods.)

Welfare recipients are issued their benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards, which can be used like debit cards to buy things or to withdraw cash from ATMs. Some states have barred the use of the cards to buy certain prohibited products; others have banned cash purchases of such items, too.

But cash transactions are all but impossible to police. To make it more difficult for welfare recipients to withdraw cash and spend it on banned items, states such as California and Washington have reprogrammed ATMs inside certain businesses to automatically reject welfare benefit cards.







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Sunny wrote:
Many single mother's prefer to stay single so they can continue to receive welfare, many have boyfriends that money, own homes, cars, etc. It's a challenge to filter those that are truly in need versus those "gaming" the system. Is there a "hotline" to report suspected abuse?
on July 18,2012 | 12:19PM
1local wrote:
All part of the Democrat breeding program...
on July 18,2012 | 01:51PM
peanutgallery wrote:
You know what they say: "vote Democrat 'cause it beats working for a living, and when we run out of money, Obama said he'll just raise taxes on the rich, again."
on July 18,2012 | 02:50PM
soundofreason wrote:
You know it.
on July 19,2012 | 06:38AM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
I had a couple of breeders in my rentals. They snuck in under their parent's lease (without notifying me per the lease) and started the duplication process when the boyfriend moved in too. I found out when my electricity and water bill skyrocketed!!! Apparently the daughter (only 24) was going to have her fifth child and she didn't even have a job. They had to find a new place to live soon after.
on July 19,2012 | 11:02AM
BigIsandLava wrote:
With the Welfare Reforms passed years ago, people can only receive benefits for 5 years. Each year their benefits are reduced 20% unless they have documented mental and physical disabilities. I'm sure there are single parents that need the benefits offered them and then, there are those that party hardy when the welfare benefits are received. I remember at subsidized apartment complexes when alcohol were mostly served during the first two weeks of welfare. I guess the merchants will really suffer with the decreased sales of alcohol and tobacco products. Not so much the strip clubs. That's still for the working men. Anyway imagine if we went back to the food stamp days and giving the strippers food stamps. Hilarious.
on July 18,2012 | 01:26PM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
That 5 year thing is a joke. There are loopholes to get around it. Dems have no guts to cut people off and make them face reality.
on July 19,2012 | 10:16AM
fairgame947 wrote:
What I don't get is how newly arrived immigrants (they are probably fine people) but who have never contributed a tax dollar to this country are allowed state/city subsicized housing, food stamps, SSI, etc. They come as familiy members of those who live here and somehow are entitled to receive all these benefits. Aren't the family members living here supposed to "sponsor" them financially?.
on July 18,2012 | 02:12PM
WesleySMori wrote:
EXCELLENT QUESTION, FAIRGAME947!!! "EXCELLENT"!!!
on July 18,2012 | 06:10PM
beachbum11 wrote:
Not if they are from Micro's everything is free from uncle sam but the State of Hawaii pays with little federal repayments. It cost us over 100 million dollars a year for these people.
on July 19,2012 | 07:30AM
awahana wrote:
Long overdue.
I know people who have Volvos, not used mind you, but brand new 2012, and iPhones, and are living in Hawaiian Homestead and receiving Quest and EBT.
They live better than me, who has a Tacoma and a Mobi 'dumbphone' and have to work over 60 hours a week in 2 jobs. WTH?
on July 18,2012 | 02:14PM
Anonymous wrote:
I know your pain - we need to get these people to learn that it is not a right to be given state assistance, but a gap to help them help THEMSELVES! I to work multiple jobs to pay for tuition, mortgage, gas, student loans (while still trying to earn another degree), and I still have to disappoint my children when it comes to additional keeping up with their friends. Sometimes I feel so poor I can barely pay attention!!
on July 18,2012 | 02:24PM
poidragon wrote:
So, when Congress spends your money on foreign trips abroad, you don't seem to mind, but when it comes to welfare benefits abuse, you have a problem with it? The U.S. government spends billions of tax dollars each year giving money to foreign governments and no one says a darn thing about it, but mention welfare fraud and waste and you guys light up like a sparkler! I think that the American people have their priorities backwards! The American People are getting ripped off at both ends of the spectrum, and can't seem to make up their minds if they are rightfully outraged or not!
on July 19,2012 | 02:53AM
peanutgallery wrote:
Wait just a minute: you can't be cutting off my booze and cigs, and I promised my girlfriend she could get a tat next week with her daughter. Well, I'm sure glad I still get free car insurance and health care. Obama promised! C'mon now!
on July 18,2012 | 02:53PM
iwanaknow wrote:
So.............how soon will Hawaii follow these other states in cutting back the "Good Life"? Howzit bout limiting public or section 8 housing to two years or less? To see/hear of kids living all their lives in public housing doesn't seem right. What does that teach?
on July 18,2012 | 03:38PM
Malani wrote:
While cracking down on these vices go one step further and stop the No-Fault Insurance that these Welfare people get for free and let them catch the bus. Look how many cars that won't be on the roads.
on July 18,2012 | 04:05PM
sumoroach wrote:
There will be a lot of cars missing from the traffic. I know that there is a stero type people but some do drive better cars, have more money on hand, travel to watch UH football in Vegas. The list goes on. About two years ago there was an article in the news about four generation of a family living in public housing. Four generations???? Why ??? I am getting mad they some of these people live better lives then the poor who try to get by on there own. The people need to fight back and say no. You are not living off of the hard workers of this state. But vote Democrat 'cause it beats working for a living, and when we run out of money, will take it from all the other people. But don't worry we the democrates just want your vote. SOCIALIST PARTY isn't Mazie the presedent of the Socialist Democrate caucus in Washington DC. YES
on July 18,2012 | 06:13PM
Toneyuki wrote:
HAHAHAHA

BOSTON >> Taking aim at what they call an abuse of the taxpayers' money, a growing number of states are blocking welfare recipients from spending their benefits on booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets, casino gambling, tattoos and strippers.

?What they CALL???? It IS AN ABUSE OF MY TAX DOLLARS.


on July 18,2012 | 09:45PM
rayonosaki wrote:
ya think
on July 19,2012 | 12:43AM
Cubsfan wrote:
Every state should have a drug test. I really hope and pray one day they can actually follow through with these crackdowns. Beware though, the red-necks and hillbillies are not going to like this one bit. YIKES!
on July 19,2012 | 01:52AM
serious wrote:
It will never happen. There goes the Democratic voting block. The people who sign their checks on the back!!!
on July 19,2012 | 02:09AM
poidragon wrote:
So, when Congress spends your money on foreign trips abroad, you don't seem to mind, but when it comes to welfare benefits abuse, you have a problem with it? The U.S. government spends billions of tax dollars each year giving money to foreign governments and no one says a damn thing about it, but mention welfare fraud and waste and you guys light up like a sparkler! I think that the American people have their priorities backwards! The American People are getting ripped off at both ends of the spectrum, and can't seem to make up their minds if they are rightfully outraged or not!
on July 19,2012 | 02:51AM
poidragon wrote:
So, when Congress spends your money on foreign trips abroad, you don't seem to mind, but when it comes to welfare benefits abuse, you have a problem with it? The U.S. government spends billions of tax dollars each year giving money to foreign governments and no one says a darn thing about it, but mention welfare fraud and waste and you guys light up like a sparkler! I think that the American people have their priorities backwards! The American People are getting ripped off at both ends of the spectrum, and can't seem to make up their minds if they are rightfully outraged or not!
on July 19,2012 | 02:51AM
beachbum11 wrote:
Repeating your self. Think of something new.
on July 19,2012 | 07:34AM
soundofreason wrote:
"Most people on public assistance, they contend, are single mothers struggling just to get by.">> Single mothers are DESIGNING their lives to be portrayed as single mothers so they can fit IN to the programs. Baby daddies are just a phone call away when they need "cash" under the threat of "pay me" or I'll tell Child Enforcement where you work. So WE'RE being stuck with subsidizing these "single mothers" in lieu of them getting child support. NOW they get welfare AND cash from the baby daddy.
on July 19,2012 | 06:35AM
soundofreason wrote:
Case in point - After learning that this SINGLE "20-something" girl was again pregant with the SECOND child from the SAME father, I expressed some concern to her that this "guy" should step up and marry her. It was THEN I was "educated" about how WE"RE grooming our up and coming generation as she went on to explain that, if they did get married, that would eliminate her benefits. He is quite involved with the family, working, and gives her "help" when she needs it. We are CREATING/funding our welfare generations.
on July 19,2012 | 06:45AM
beachbum11 wrote:
After the first welfare baby benefits should stop. They know they can't afford it so don't have any more till you can. Sew em up
on July 19,2012 | 07:35AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
Or be sterilized.
on July 19,2012 | 10:22AM
soundofreason wrote:
I think their benefits ought to be reduced by 200.00 if they smoke. If they can still choose/"afford" to have nicotine in their system.....then they must not be all that poor.
on July 19,2012 | 06:38AM
charlesu wrote:
This is unfair. The poor need booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets, casino gambling, tattoos and strippers just like everyone else. You evil republican 1% 'rs just want to keep the poor without such basic necessities. Obama money is the best !!!! ;)
on July 19,2012 | 06:51AM
beachbum11 wrote:
You are a very sick person. Get out a find a job.
on July 19,2012 | 07:36AM
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