Time is running out for New York legislators to pass a law preventing public assistance recipients from using their EBT cards at strip clubs and liquor stores. The Public Assistance Integrity Act passed the Republican-controlled state senate twice, most recently in June, but the bill has languished because Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refuses to allow a vote. Federal law mandates that all states create meaningful welfare reforms before February 2014, or face a 5% cut in funding allotted for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund, which in New York would amount to $125 million.
The bill would "prohibit the sale or purchase of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or lottery tickets with public assistance benefits," and prevent EBT cards from being used at liquor stores, casinos, or adult entertainment facilities.
“We’re talking about . . . putting food on the table and not frittering away [benefits] on things like alcohol and cigarettes,” a GOP Assemblyman told the Post.
Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick, a Democrat, told the paper that the law will be passed administratively. “We know we’re up against a deadline in order to adhere to the federal guidelines. I have assurances that it’s being done.”
While Albany is fighting to prevent the needy from spending their public assistance money on vices, we recently opened the door for a vice-based regressive tax on the poor.