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.”
 

Ellie's Fine Lingerie Recognized For "Best Interior Design"

Ellie’s Fine Lingerie in Warehouse Row was awarded top honors at the Best of Intima Awards held earlier this month in New York, N.Y. by Intima Magazine. It is the premium lingerie and beachwear publication for the U.S. and Canada. The Best of Intima Awards jury was comprised of 20 high-end brands responsible for nominating and selecting award-worthy retailers. This year’s jury selected ... (click for more)

New And Used Vehicle Sales Drop In August

New vehicle sales in Hamilton County dropped to 1,025 in August, and used vehicle sales dropped to 3,315, according to figures from the County Clerk's office. That compares to 1,031 new vehicles and 3,491 used vehicles the previous August. Totals for August included 430 new cars and 595 new trucks sold. They included 1,754 used cars and 1,561 used trucks sold. (click for more)

Rhasean Lowry, 34, Charged In Death of 3-Year-Old Girl

Rhasean Lowry, 34, was arrested for abusing a three-year-old girl, and then criminal homicide after she died. Last Tuesday, the Chattanooga Police Department was called on a suspected child abuse case. Lowry took the victim to a local hospital and he stated the victim fell down steps. Doctors advised that the victim’s injuries were the result of blunt force trauma consistent ... (click for more)

City IDB Member Who Made Motion For $9 Million Black Creek TIF Had Not Lived In City For Years

A City Industrial Development Board (IDB) member who made the motion to approve a controversial $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) had not lived in the city for years, City Attorney Wade Hinton confirmed. Chris Ramsey, a BlueCross BlueShield official, was not present at an IDB meeting on Tuesday morning. Five other board members were. Citizen Helen Burns ... (click for more)

Decimating The Chattanooga Public Library

Corinne Hill claims that the library is just undergoing a normal weeding process for eliminating books.  She has bragged that she's responsible for the elimination of over 100,000 books - with more to go. "Normal" weeding is not rampant throwing away.  Yes, books go to the Friends for their sale - where they get $2 for a $75 book and thousands wind up being recycled ... (click for more)

The Many Lessons I Learned From Helen McDonald Exum

Helen McDonald Exum was my friend and mentor. As I think of her passing I can only imagine the celebration that is happening in heaven as the news of her arrival is being told. I am sure that there is a party that not only has she organized but that there is not a detail that has been left to chance. I am sure that it is the grandest of events, for you see, she has been planing ... (click for more)