EBT card abuse bill gains support in Senate

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NASHVILLE - State Sen. Jim Tracy’s bill to curb abuse of purchases made through electronic benefit transaction cards used by recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program advanced through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week.

Senate Bill 244 prohibits welfare recipients from using EBT cards in liquor stores, adult cabarets and casinos or gambling facilities.

“It is outrageous that these benefit cards, which are meant to help feed families with children in times of desperate need, are reported to have been misused for purchases like alcohol, gambling and adult cabarets,” said Tracy, a Republican from Shelbyville. “Tennessee law should make it perfectly clear that we will not tolerate this fraudulent use of taxpayer money.”

Tracy introduced the legislation in response to a report last summer by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which uncovered numerous examples of abuse by welfare recipients.

Under the bill, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits at liquor stores, adult cabarets or gambling establishments would be subject to disqualification from the program as permitted by federal law and also would have those misused benefits recouped by the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

The legislation also prescribes civil penalties to businesses that sell those products and accept EBT benefits as payment in violation of the law. The fine for a violation by the seller would be $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation within five years, and $5,000 for a third or subsequent violation within five years.

In addition, the bill bans the use of EBT benefits at an ATM located inside a liquor store, adult cabaret, casino or gambling establishment.

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Food Stamps, General Assembly, GOP, Jim Tracy, Politics, Republicans, Tennessee, Welfare
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Members Opinions:
February 22, 2013 at 8:11am
This is a good common sense measure that should have been spelled out and included in the original legislation. Repeat violators should be faced with shutdowns as well as fines.
February 22, 2013 at 4:51pm
yea good point bota. Sad thing is try and get this done nationally and see the fighting.
February 25, 2013 at 1:03pm
This is something that should have been started a long time ago. So many people abuse this system. We have people with EBT cards that really don’t need them and in most cases will almost always lead to an abuse of the card. I’m personally glad someone has finally decided to crack down on the abuse this program is getting. It’s sad that there are people out there that really need help and we have people buying alcohol or gambling with taxpayer money! Maybe the government should do a better job at checking up on people to make sure they’re spending this “free” money the proper way. Or even make sure that the people using the cards are actually using the money they have the right way. *Cough* random drug test *Cough* I think that fining businesses that accept the cards for fraudulent purchases is a good start for regulating the way people use these things. If nothing else State Sen. Jim Tracy’s bill is going to help get word out that people are taking notice and taxpayers are tired of hearing of or even knowing people that abuse a system that deep down is a really great and helpful tool.
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