More states are enacting or considering laws that prohibit people who get welfare cash from spending it on liquor, cigarettes, strip clubs, gambling and guns — laws that even supporters say are difficult to enforce.
en states have passed such laws and at least 14 are considering them, the National Conference of State Legislaturessays.
Under a new federal law, all states must prevent the use of cash benefits in liquor stores, gambling establishments and adult entertainment businesses by 2014. States that fail to establish policies face cuts in federal support.
Welfare recipients use debit cards to buy things or get cash at ATMs. A report by the House Ways and Means committee cited news reports in eight states about people with welfare debit cards withdrawing thousands of dollars from ATMs in casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs. The report did not estimate how often that happened or how much money was involved.
Last year, 4.4 million people received cash benefits ranging from $200 to $1,000 a month, paid by federal and state governments. The federal government share was more than $16.5 billion.
Food stamps pay for food, and welfare cash is supposed to be for non-food necessities, but states find it difficult to police.