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.