Some Michigan residents may be surprised to know that taxpayer-funded EBT cards can currently be used to withdraw cash at gentleman's clubs and liquor stores. To remedy this, state Sen. Rick Jones and Reps. Margaret O'Brien and Dale Zorn are collaborating on a bicameral bill package to completely prohibit welfare recipients from accessing taxpayer-provided money at these establishments.
The Legislature last year acted to prohibit the use of withdrawals from cash assistance accounts at casinos statewide. House Bills 4858-4860 amend the same state law, extending the ban to strip clubs and liquor stores. The companion Senate Bills are 434-436.
"In working to ensure a cost-effective state government that uses every taxpayer dollar wisely, we have uncovered many instances in which these dollars are being widely abused," said O'Brien, R-Portage. "I want to ensure this assistance is there for the families who receive on it and rely on it to feed their children, not to fund nighttime entertainment. This is common-sense legislation that benefits both those who truly need government assistance, as well as the taxpayers who bear the cost burden of funding these benefits."
“Bridge Cards should be temporary assistance to provide the basic necessities of life,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “They should not be cover bar tabs at gentlemen’s clubs or pay for a six pack.”
Zorn, R-Ida, said: “This kind of use of taxpayer assistance is an abuse that we simply won’t tolerate. Welfare reform is an important part of ensuring a state government that is accountable to its taxpayers, and I plan to continue working to root out this kind of misuse of the system.”
A bill passed last year by the federal government says that states must comply with new guidelines in order to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grants, including preventing assistance provided under the state program from being used in any EBT transaction in liquor stores, gaming establishments or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe for entertainment. If no change is made, a penalty equal to up to 4 percent of the block grants will be deducted beginning in 2014, which could amount to roughly $40 million in funding losses for the state.