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New Alabama bill prohibits welfare money use on liquor, tattoos
al.com ^ | Monday, July 30, 2012, 7:00 AM

Posted on 07/30/2012 6:09:58 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- An Alabama state senator is pushing a bill that would prohibit Alabamians from using welfare benefits to buy booze, cigarettes, lap dances or advice on the psychic hotline.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, prefiled a bill for the 2013 session that would prohibit people from using their benefits in, or making cash withdrawals at, bars, casinos, tattoo parlors, strip clubs or facilities that offer psychic services. The proposal also would prohibit people from using the benefits to buy alcoholic beverages and cigarettes and fine any business that lets them do so.

"I think to prevent some of these, or all of these, type transactions would hopefully mean the money will go where it is intended to go, which is for the support of the children," Orr said.

"If hard-working taxpayers are footing the bill for tattoos and psychic hotlines, they ought to be incensed. I certainly am," Orr said.

Lawmakers in states across the country are trying to implement restrictions on the use of welfare benefits. Saying they are trying to prevent the waste and abuse of taxpayer money, at least 10 states have implemented new policies or laws, while opponents question the enforceability or need for the measures at all.

Assistance to poor families comes mainly from two programs -- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is commonly thought of as welfare. Decades ago, people got food stamps and a welfare check. Now, both benefits are loaded on a single Electronic Benefit Transfer card, which works much like a debit card.

There is programming associated with the card that flags the purchase of items not allowed under SNAP such as alcohol, said Department of Human Resources spokesman Barry Spear.

But TANF does not carry such restrictions, and recipients can use the card like a debit card to make ATM withdrawals or purchases.

"It has always been a cash program," Spear said.

"We do take very seriously that people do use benefits responsibly. We do think the majority of the people on the program do use the money responsibly," Spear said.

Spear said the department does not have a position on Orr's legislation.

When people got welfare checks or deposits, there was little the state could do to police how they used the money. But Orr said that, since the state has the capability of programming EBT cards to restrict purchases with SNAP benefits, they should do the same for TANF benefits.

"It is -- I don't want to say easy -- but it is a very possible thing to do," Orr said.

The bill parallels new requirements handed down from Congress to crack down on TANF benefits. Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama in February, states were required to prevent TANF benefits from being used at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.

States have two years to implement the changes and could face penalties if they fail to make adequate progress. Spear said the department has adopted a policy and will be in discussions with the vendor that does EBT card programming to arrange restrictions for TANF.

State bill tougher

Orr's bill goes further than the national legislation, with additional restrictions and penalties for violators.

Violators would be disqualified from receiving cash or EBT benefits for one month on a first offense; three months on a second violation and permanently on a third violation.

A person or business that lets a person buy alcohol or tobacco products with the benefits would be fined: $100 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation within five years and $1,000 for a third violation within five years.

However, a potential loophole is that a TANF recipient still could go down the street to an ATM, withdraw funds, and go back to the bar, strip club or wherever.

Orr acknowledged that enforcement could be a challenge, but he said the state shouldn't be making it easy for people to use their TANF benefits in places such as casinos.

"If people want to try to circumvent the system that is certainly possible. Now the bill says you are not to spend your TANF benefits in such places, but ... enforcement will be a challenge," Orr said.

"But I think we will make a substantial improvement over the current state of affairs," Orr said.

TANF provides temporary cash assistance aimed at helping people get back on their feet financially. Spear said there are work and education requirements associated with the program.

In May there were 20,858 Alabama families -- totaling 49,545 people -- receiving TANF, with an average monthly payment of $79.93 per person.

The federal law puts a 60-month lifetime cap on benefits, but Spear said department numbers show people are on the program for an average of three years.

Modest benefits

Alabama TANF benefits are modest compared to other states. The benefits are the fourth-lowest in the country, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Orr said he did not have an indication of how much TANF money in Alabama is being misused, but he has heard anecdotal evidence from store clerks and seen studies in other states.

"Is everyone receiving these benefits abusing them? Absolutely not. My hope would be that it is a small group," Orr said.

The senator said he became interested in the issue after getting a telephone call from a disgusted store clerk. "The cashier says, 'I'm sick and tired of people buying beer and cigarettes (with EBT cards),'" Orr recalled.

Eleven states have implemented some sort of restrictions on TANF, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Arizona prohibits the purchase of lottery tickets and prohibits gaming facilities from having ATMs that accept EBT cards.

Washington doesn't allow TANF to be used for gambling, alcohol, tobacco, tattoos or at strip clubs. Missouri requires a photo ID for TANF benefits.

A House Democrat questioned the need for such a bill.

"It's Republican rhetoric. That is all it is," said Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham.

But Orr said it erodes taxpayer confidence when tax dollars are wasted.

Spear did not have an estimate on what reprogramming the cards would cost the state.

Orr said that, since the state has to have something in place by 2014 addressing the federal legislation, he didn't think it would be "cost punitive" to add the other restrictions called for in his bill.

"If the funds that we spend to deny these transactions go to the children who need it, to me it is money well spent," he said.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; US: Alabama
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 07/30/2012 6:10:05 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
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To: DeaconBenjamin

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again...
Any program that allows you to buy canned chili
but prohibits you from buying toilet paper
is fatally flawed from the git-go.


2 posted on 07/30/2012 6:15:50 PM PDT by Repeal The 17th (We have met the enemy and he is us.)
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To: All


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3 posted on 07/30/2012 6:21:38 PM PDT by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: Repeal The 17th
All of these programs should just be ended.

I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.

In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.

There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor.

Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavors to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen?

On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent.

The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness.

In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty.


Ben Franklin - 1776
4 posted on 07/30/2012 6:24:10 PM PDT by Ouderkirk (Democrats...the party of Slavery, Segregation, Sodomy, and Sedition)
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To: DeaconBenjamin

“New Alabama bill prohibits welfare money use on liquor, tattoos”

Well, there goes Alabama’s economic recovery...


5 posted on 07/30/2012 6:26:20 PM PDT by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion. 01-20-2013: Change we can look forward to.)
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To: PubliusMM

“New Alabama bill prohibits welfare money use on liquor, tattoos”

ACLU will take this to court and win.

They’ll argue that tattoos represent a form of “expression” that is protected by the First Amendment, and the courts will agree.

Jes’ predictin’...


6 posted on 07/30/2012 6:28:27 PM PDT by Road Glide
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To: DeaconBenjamin
This'll be coming-out any second:


7 posted on 07/30/2012 6:29:21 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs and most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: Ouderkirk

1766 not 1776


8 posted on 07/30/2012 6:34:29 PM PDT by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy)
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To: DeaconBenjamin
how about any business that takes State money loses their business license???

bet that would slow it down...

9 posted on 07/30/2012 6:42:23 PM PDT by Chode (American Hedonist - *DTOM* -ww- NO Pity for the LAZY)
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To: DeaconBenjamin

Party poopers.


10 posted on 07/30/2012 6:48:22 PM PDT by bgill
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To: DeaconBenjamin

This should really piss off Eric the Holder. Alabama can expect another lawsuit from the buffoons in Washington.


11 posted on 07/30/2012 6:52:56 PM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (The NRA did not create James "The Joker" Holmes. Harvey Weinstein's Hollywood did.)
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To: from occupied ga

When it’s that far back what’s a few years ;-)

Thanks for the correction.


12 posted on 07/30/2012 7:03:41 PM PDT by Ouderkirk (Democrats...the party of Slavery, Segregation, Sodomy, and Sedition)
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To: DeaconBenjamin
prohibit people from using their benefits in, or making cash withdrawals at, bars, casinos, tattoo parlors, strip clubs or facilities that offer psychic services

This is a completely pointless law, because it won't stop anything. The welfare benefits in question are cash benefits (effectively, they replaced welfare checks that people would cash/deposit, with debit cards). People can just go to an ATM and take out cash. The prohibition on making cash withdrawals at bars, casinos, etc., is worthless - people can simply make cash withdrawals next door to a bar, casino, etc. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to seee a bunch of high-fee, privately-owned ATMs sprouting up right outside of these prohibited places.

13 posted on 07/30/2012 7:26:27 PM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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To: DeaconBenjamin

Donate food stamps for 0nama. that should work!


14 posted on 07/30/2012 7:37:02 PM PDT by MtnClimber (To the left wrong is right, down is up and backward is "Forward")
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To: DeaconBenjamin

...and once again Alabama is making the Texas Legislature and Governor look like a bunch of MORONS for thinking about this problem (just as they don’t consider Illegal Immigration to be an issue).


15 posted on 07/30/2012 8:41:36 PM PDT by BobL ( It's easy to be a saint when you have nothing on the line)
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To: DeaconBenjamin
"We do take very seriously that people do use benefits responsibly. We do think the majority of the people on the program do use the money responsibly," Spear said.

That may be true, you moron, and it wouldn't matter if it were all your money.

With the amounts involved, and the millions of parasites on the programs, that "minority" you casually "think" are irresponsible can add up to tens of billions$.

We need an accounting, dammit!

16 posted on 07/30/2012 8:56:14 PM PDT by publius911 (Formerly Publius 6961, formerly jennsdad)
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To: Road Glide
They’ll argue that tattoos represent a form of “expression” that is protected by the First Amendment, and the courts will agree.

The court will also have to be persuaded that the overtaxed taxpayer is obligated, at gunpoint if necessary, to pay for it.

If "freedom of expression" is not cost free, it is no longer freedom of expression, but extortion.

17 posted on 07/30/2012 9:03:36 PM PDT by publius911 (Formerly Publius 6961, formerly jennsdad)
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To: DeaconBenjamin

Run it the way we used to run the Air Force Government Travel Card Program.

Limit the amount of cash allowed to be withdrawn. I’m sure they can use it to pay for groceries, since that is its function.

Set up automated “flags” for attempted misuse. Set and enforce penalties.

This crap has gone on long enough. The gravy train is out of gravy.


18 posted on 07/30/2012 9:16:27 PM PDT by Rides_A_Red_Horse (If there is a war on women, the Kennedys are the Spec Ops troops.)
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To: Conscience of a Conservative

People can just go to an ATM and take out cash. The prohibition on making cash withdrawals at bars, casinos, etc., is worthless - people can simply make cash withdrawals next door to a bar, casino, etc.


Its intended for the purchase of food at grocery stores. Limit its use to purchasing food at grocery stores.

TURN OFF THE DAMNED ATM FUNCTION!


19 posted on 07/30/2012 9:18:45 PM PDT by Rides_A_Red_Horse (If there is a war on women, the Kennedys are the Spec Ops troops.)
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To: Rides_A_Red_Horse

I am for healthy food gruel to replace food stamps for the stupid and lazy.


20 posted on 07/30/2012 9:42:54 PM PDT by lookout88 (.combat officer's dad)
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To: Rides_A_Red_Horse
Its intended for the purchase of food at grocery stores. Limit its use to purchasing food at grocery stores.

No, it's not. You're thinking of food stamps (which are, in fact, limited to food and certain other specified products). The benefits in question here are cash benefits (e.g., the equivalent of what would previously have been a welfare check). They are intended not only for purchasing food at grocery stores, but also rent, bills, etc.

21 posted on 07/30/2012 10:04:42 PM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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To: Ouderkirk

Great quote no matter how you look at it.


22 posted on 07/31/2012 6:34:07 AM PDT by from occupied ga (Your government is your most dangerous enemy)
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To: Conscience of a Conservative

I’m sure that if we went through the expense of trouble of ending the availability of cash and made them pay the rent, bills, etc, electronically it would still be cheaper than what we’re doing now.


23 posted on 07/31/2012 12:45:57 PM PDT by Rides_A_Red_Horse (If there is a war on women, the Kennedys are the Spec Ops troops.)
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