ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) - State lawmakers want to cut off so-called "sin spending" by welfare recipients. The State Senate has voted to ban the use of welfare debit cards at strip clubs, or to buy alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets.
An EBT card, also known as an electronic benefit transfer card, allows welfare recipients to withdraw cash. Up to now they've been able to withdraw cash from any ATM, but maybe not for long.
Tuesday night the State Senate passed a bill that would prohibit welfare recipients from using their EBT cards to withdraw money from certain ATMs, like the ones in liquor stores, strip clubs or casinos.
Mary Hairston felt, "I think if you want cash you should go to work."
Through the state's safety net assistance, it's hard to control exactly where every dollar is spent, but State Senator Catherine Young thinks allowing welfare cash withdrawals inside liquor stores and casinos just makes it too easy to abuse.
"I think people are fed up, particularly in WNY. A lot of people work very hard for their paychecks and they don't want to stand in a line at a grocery store and see somebody use a benefit card to purchase alcohol, or go to a casino and take out their cash assistance and use it at a casino," she argued.
Even many of the liquor store operators think it's a law that's needed.
Gambino Liquors manager Yolanda Gambino says people come in every day with an EBT card, adding, "And we cannot accept a benefit card, so please people don't use it."
Gambino Liquors turns away people who try to use their welfare cards to buy liquor.
"Matter of fact I get Medicaid and I get food stamps. Medicaid is for my medical and food stamps are for food. That's what it should be used for, nothing else," Gambino said.
Sen. Young added, "It's not perfect but it's a step in the right direction. It actually meets federal requirements that have to be fulfilled by the year 2014 or the state loses $125 million."
Now it's up to the State Assembly to pass this law and that might not happen until later this summer.
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