Joe Robach and the New York State Senate recently passed the “Public Assistance Integrity Act” to protect public assistance for welfare recipients from being used to purchase cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, lottery tickets or for casino gambling.  Unlike Food Stamps purchases, cash assistance purchases are currently permitted under New York State law.

This Senate legislation (S.7671), supported by Joe Robach, would also prevent individuals receiving welfare from using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to make ATM withdrawals from certain places, including liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs. 
Welfare recipients receive both food stamps and cash assistance, which are both frequently administered through the EBT debit card.  Cash assistance allows individuals to purchase essential items that cannot be obtained using food stamps, such as paper products and school supplies, and to help defray the cost of housing and energy expenses.  However, recipients can also and use this cash assistance to buy cigarettes and beer, or even to fund an afternoon at the race track or an evening at a local strip club.
Several states have already passed legislation to enact restrictions on the use of public assistance funds, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Washington.
Earlier this year, President Obama signed the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which requires states to limit electronic benefit transactions in locations including liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs by welfare recipients before February 2014.  If New York fails to comply, the State will forfeit $120 million in federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds.  

For more information on this Senate bill, contact the office of Joe Robach.