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.”
 

Chattanooga Business Calendar Aug. 30 - Sept. 6

Tuesday, Sept. 2 Member Orientation 8 to 9:30 a.m. Chamber Board Room: 811 Broad St. Learn more about how the Chamber can benefit you and your business. For members and non-members. Free. Light breakfast. Tuesday, Sept. 2 Ribbon Cutting for Gander Mountain     9 a.m. Gander Mountain: 5756 Highway 153 Join the Chattanooga Chamber ... (click for more)

BlueCross BlueShield Of Tennessee Foundation To Endow WGU Tennessee Scholarship

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation will endow $10,000 in scholarship funds to WGU Tennessee, the state-endorsed, nonprofit online university launched last summer as part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative, officials announced. “There’s a gap in the health care industry when it comes to medical analytics and nursing analytics professions in Tennessee,” said ... (click for more)

General Motors To Invest $185 Million In Engine Plant, Build New Cadillac SRX In Spring Hill

General Motors will invest $185 million to make small gas engines at its Spring Hill manufacturing complex, officials said Wednesday.  GM also identified the next-generation Cadillac SRX as a future mid-size vehicle to be produced at Spring Hill. “We want to congratulate GM on this important investment in its future in Spring Hill and Middle Tennessee,” Governor Bill Haslam ... (click for more)

Reception Honors County's 2nd-Longest Serving Employee

General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck, at a County Courthouse reception, asked anyone who was working at the courthouse in 1966 to raise their hand. Only Circuit Court Clerk Paula Thompson was able to do so. Judge Shattuck said he believes only Edna Camp of the Criminal Court clerk's office, has been at the courthouse longer. Ms. Thompson did not seek re-election, ... (click for more)

Vote No On Health Insurance Changes Affecting County Teachers

Our Hamilton County School Board will vote on insurance changes effecting both active employees and retirees, who are not on Medicare at this time.  HCEA strongly objects to changes being made at this time and urges a “No” vote.  Insurance had been frozen three years by negotiations.  Since the Educators Professional Negotiations Act was nullified by the 2011 Legislature, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Al Sharpton’s Wise Remarks

I’ll admit I paid little more than scant attention to the Monday funeral of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police bullets in Ferguson, Mo., after he allegedly was involved in strong-armed robbery. There are too many tawdry details and, in my way of thinking, there is nothing under God’s sun, absolutely nothing, that gives others the right to riot, burn ... (click for more)