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Public Assistance Act is a no-brainer

July 25, 2013
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Would you donate to a charity that supports people's outings to strip clubs and casinos? How about a charity that pays for people's tobacco and alcohol purchases?

Those types of expenses currently are allowed through the state's Electronic Benefit Transfer - more commonly known as EBT - debit card, which grants welfare recipients access to cash and food stamps.

While many people in need are using public assistance honestly, there are people abusing your tax dollars, and there's nothing authorities can do about it - unless the Public Assistance Integrity Act makes its way into the books.

The act would prohibit welfare recipients from using EBT cards to buy items such as cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets. It also would prevent ATM withdrawals from places such as liquor stores, casinos and night clubs.

We have no problem with cash assistance since it can help people buy essential items that food stamps don't cover, such as paper products.

But there's no way it should be legal to use taxpayer dollars for tobacco, gambling and alcohol. Those aren't essential to helping someone get back on their feet. In fact, these habits can turn into vices that prohibit people from achieving their full potential. Some senators argued the act was unfairly targeting the poor and said they wanted statistics for how often it happens. We say it doesn't matter how often it happens. That answer should be never, and it should be illegal. This act doesn't target the poor, it targets people who abuse taxpayer dollars.

This act is a no-brainer. Last year, the bill passed the Senate 56-3, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver failed to allow action on the bill and it died in committee.

According to Associated Press reports, it has better chances this year because of a federal law that now requires states to restrict how the cash portion of social services is spent, or they lose 5 percent of funding for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. That's a $125 million risk next year for this state. So why would we hurt the people in our state who need help so people who misuse the system can continue abusing taxpayer dollars?



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