The state Senate is set to approve a bill Tuesday that would block New York benefit cards from being used at strip clubs and casinos or for items like booze and cigarettes.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, would prohibit New Yorkers from using any type of welfare assistance on tobacco products, lottery tickets or alcoholic beverages. Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards would become illegal to use in any gambling facilities, liquor stores or places where “performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state.”
“We fully understand that there are people in this state who need help,” Libous said in a news conference. “What this bill does is help people because we’re going to go after those individuals who defraud the system.”
The bill is introduced in the Assembly, but isn’t expected to come to a vote before the legislative session ends this week.
Libous said the state has to act on establishing an anti-fraud system for welfare benefits by February or it will face a 5 percent cut—or $120 million—in its federal funding for assistance programs. Some in the Assembly believe, however, that the state Office for Temporary Disability Assistance can establish a system through regulations, without legislative approval.
The bill would keep individuals out of a public assistance program for one month for a first offense, three months for a second and permanently for a third. For retailers, they would face fines for the first two offenses in a five-year period and a suspension of their EBT license for a third.
Here’s the bill: