Tag Archives: EBT

Bill Restricting EBT Cards Clears Senate Committee

News release from Senate Republican Caucus:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State Senator Jim Tracy’s (R-Shelbyville) bill to curb abuse of purchases made through Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards used by recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program sailed through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee today. Senate Bill 244 prohibits use of a welfare recipient’s EBT card in liquor stores, adult cabarets and casinos or gambling facilities.
“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 purchases like alcohol, gambling and adult cabarets,” 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. The Center reported one transaction at a liquor store totaling $790.
Under the bill, welfare recipients who use EBT benefits at liquor stores, adult cabarets, or gambling establishments would be subject to disqualification from the program as permitted by federal law and also would have those misused benefits recouped by the Tennessee Department of Human Services. 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 $1000 for the first violation, $2500 for the second violation within five years, and $5000 for a third or subsequent violation within five years.
In addition, the bill bans the use of EBT benefits at an ATM located inside a liquor store, adult cabaret, casino or gambling establishment.
“I’m proud to sponsor this bill and help reform the welfare system in Tennessee,” said Senator Tracy. “We need to continue to make sure that taxpayer money is used appropriately and I applaud the Department of Human Services for working with me on this bill.”
“Many taxpayers struggle to make ends meet and to pay their taxes,” added 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.”

Note: Previous post (noting the easure is scaled back from the original version HERE.

Bill Restricting EBT Cards Scaled Back

Several proposed restrictions on the use of electronic benefit transfer cards have been dropped from proposed legislation so that it will conform with federal law, prompting complaints from some senators.
As originally filed, SB244 declared that the EBT cards, used as a debit card to provide welfare payments and food stamps, could not be used in businesses primarily selling tobacco products, tattoos or “psychic services.” Those references were deleted in an amendment presented to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week at the urging of state Department of Human Services officials.
Remaining are provisions covering liquor stores, “adult cabarets” and “casinos or gaming establishments.”
Nathalie Essex, assistant general counsel for the Department of Human Services, told the committee that a law enacted by Congress last year specifically authorizes states to impose the remaining restrictions, but declares states going beyond the authorization can lose federal funds. Legislative staff says the original version would “jeopardize” almost $10 million in federal money now sent to the state.

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EBT Cards Used at Strip Club, Bar, Etc.

From a Beacon Center of Tennessee Watchdog Report:
Recipients of EBT cards in Chattanooga and Knoxville used their benefits at a strip club, a bar, a tobacco shop, malls, high-end clothing stores, hotels and other places where non-essential items are sold.
As it did with EBT transactions in Memphis, Tennessee Watchdog accessed state records and examined almost 22,000 EBT purchases in Chattanooga and Knoxville. These transactions took place in June 2012.
Of the transactions (available for viewing here), 13,566 took place in Knoxville, while 8,424 occurred in Chattanooga.
As was the case in Memphis, most of the transactions occurred at grocery stores– but a small number of transactions were at businesses that do not specialize in selling essential items.
According to state records, an EBT card was used to make three separate transactions at the Th’Katch Show Club in Knoxville (Photo courtesy of TreeHugger.com).
An EBT can offer two different types of benefits — the first being food products, commonly known as food stamps, and the second deriving from the Federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF). Unlike food stamps, which are limited to certain food and related purchases, families on assistance through TANF receive as much as $500 per month in cash benefits and use them as they see fit.