State Senator Tracy And Rep. Weaver File Legislation To Ban Misuse Of Welfare Benefits Through EBT Cards

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

State Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Representative Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) have filed legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to curb abuse of purchases made through Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards used by recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.  

Senate Bill 244 prohibits use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in establishments that primarily sell tobacco products, tattoo facilities, psychic services, adult cabarets, and any establishment open to the public where liquor, wine, beer, or other alcoholic beverages are served for consumption on the premises.

“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 everything from theatre tickets and a tour of Graceland, to the purchase of alcohol and nightclub entertainment,” said Senator Tracy. “Tennessee law should make it perfectly clear that we will not tolerate this fraudulent use of taxpayer money.”
 
The legislation comes after a report was released last summer by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, which uncovered numerous examples of abuse by welfare recipients. According to the report, EBT cards were swiped at liquor stores, nightclubs, malls, retail outlets, and adult entertainment establishments, as well as for a hotel stay and UPS services, among others. The Center reported one transaction at a liquor store totaling $790. 
 
“This money is supposed to be used to feed children in struggling families, providing them with essentials until the family gets back on their feet,” said Rep. Weaver. “We need to put some teeth in our law to ensure that this abuse does not happen again.”
 
Under the bill, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits for alcohol, tobacco or a lottery ticket would be subject to disqualification from the program. 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 $100 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation within five years, and $1,000 for a third or subsequent violation within five years.   
 
In addition, the legislation calls for welfare recipients who purchasing items or services banned under the proposed act to reimburse the state for the illegal purchase.
 
“Many taxpayers struggle to make ends meet and to pay their taxes,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. “The selfish misuse of the welfare system undermines those who truly need and utilize temporary assistance lawfully and causes widespread public distrust in government services. Taxpayers should not tolerate it.”
 

Attorney General Slatery Names Solicitor General

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced that Andrée Sophia Blumstein will join the office as solicitor general.   Mrs. Blumstein will oversee appellate litigation in state and federal courts, review written opinions, and advise the attorney general. “I could not be more pleased that Andrée has accepted this important appointment,” Attorney General Slatery ... (click for more)

Northwest Georgia’s Unemployment Rate Falls To 7.1 Percent In September

The Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday that the unemployment rate in the Northwest Georgia region in September was 7.1 percent, down 1.0 percent from 8.1 percent in August. The rate in September of last year was 7.8 percent. The rate dropped because there were 4,034 fewer unemployed people in the Northwest Georgia area in September, according to the federal government’s ... (click for more)

Mayor Berke, Chattanooga Police Department, And Community Members Reach Out To Group Members To End Violence

The city of Chattanooga held a call-in on Thursday night, as part of the Violence Reduction Initiative. Dozens of law enforcement officials, community members, social service providers and clergy gathered to deliver a message to over 20 members of violent groups in Chattanooga. Family members of the probationers watched the call-in from another building. Although the call-in was ... (click for more)

Tribute Service For Luther Masingill Held At Historic Engel Stadium

It took a place as big as historic Engel Stadium for Chattanooga to say goodbye to their beloved Luther. Hundreds came Thursday afternoon to pay tribute to Luther Masingill who died early Monday morning after a radio career that spanned an amazing 74 years. It was clear from all who spoke that he was considered not only a radio personality, but also a role model. One after ... (click for more)

Chairs Cost How Much?

Many times while growing up, I would go to the store with my parents. More often than not, I would see something I wanted, and ask my parents to buy it for me. More often than not, they said no. “Why?” I asked. “Son, money doesn’t grow on trees.” That’s a phrase I’m sure many of us have heard more than once over the course of our lives. However, I have since learned that they were ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Pete Carroll’s Philosophy

Pete Carroll, the head football coach of the Seattle Seahawks, has a deep belief that he can change people by simply listening to them and then making suggestions on how they can get what they really want. If the people Carroll who can influence win, Carroll wins, and remember his team won last year’s Super Bowl with his methods.   When asked for example, here is what ... (click for more)