The Sun editorial: Do you know what is happening with your tax dollars?
Saturday April 12, 2014 | By:Jessie Owen, The Sun editor | Editorial
HAMBURG — New York state currently allows the use of Welfare assistance in strip clubs and casinos.
I can just stop writing, right? That phrase speaks volumes and can pretty much stand alone.
Except I have a decent amount of space to fill and a lot to say.
It blows my mind that a program as extensive, widely used and expensive as Welfare had so few checks and balances built into it.
According to New York Sen. Patrick Gallivan’s office, electronic benefit transfer cards are handed to Welfare recipients; they work much like debit cards do (except, of course, that the money does not come out of the users’ personal bank accounts).
Welfare cards access two separate accounts: food stamps and cash assistance.
I found that I was completely in the dark about this process. I had imagined that Welfare worked much like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. With WIC, participants are given very specific items from which to choose (such as store-brand 1 percent milk or store-brand wheat bread) and can receive only so many of each, per month.
Welfare’s food stamps program is apparently done along similar lines to WIC – as it should be. I do not begrudge this program to those who legitimately need it, but they too should remember that people are working very hard to pay for the money they use; they should not be taking advantage of the government’s kindness.
Gallivan’s office said that, on the other hand, the cash assistance program built into Welfare was intended to be used for non-food necessities such as diapers, toilet paper, clothing and school supplies. Some of those item can fall a little bit into the gray “necessity” area, but I can see the legitimacy.
Somewhere along the line, some recipients figured out that an EBT card could be used to buy things like beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets, or be used at strip clubs and casinos.
Shame on those individuals for not having the decency to refrain from completely abusing this program, but I call foul on the state as well, for not double-checking itself.
Perhaps whoever was in charge of detailing the accepted use of that cash assistance funding went to lunch and then forgot to come back and fill in the blanks, or threw up his or her hands at the amount of work involved, and just gave up. In my eyes, there is no legitimate reason that our taxpayer dollars should be able to be used in this way.
Not to mention that some of the taxpayers out of whose wallets that cash assistance comes are morally opposed to strip clubs and/or casinos. Part of their hard-earned wages is going directly into the pockets of exotic dancers and casino operators.
Gallivan’s office called the abuse of the Welfare program in this way “widespread,” meaning that this was not a one-time thing that was immediately caught and rectified.
The Public Assistance Integrity Act, which has been passed by the state Senate three times, seeks to “prevent Welfare cards from buying tobacco, alcohol and being used at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.”
Part of that bill read, “No state law protects public assistance cash benefits from either being misused to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco or lottery tickets or withdrawn from automatic teller machines at locations such as liquor stores, casinos or establishments providing adult-oriented entertainment.”
As of Feb. 22, the state Assembly has let that act die without being approved, every single time, for reasons I cannot fathom.
Thank you to Sen. Tom Libous for sponsoring the act in the Senate, and for looking out for not only those who provide the funding, but for those who really need and legitimately utilize it.
“Public assistance should not be spent at liquor stores, casinos or strip clubs, but under New York state law, it’s legal,” he said. “We need to stop this abuse. Every Welfare dollar spent at the liquor store is money that could be going to help families get back on their feet.”
Sen. Mark Grisanti has said, about the act, “Using your tax dollars to support a transaction at a liquor store, casino or strip club is not only inappropriate, but it goes against the intent of the Welfare program.”
And yet, it continues, thanks to our friends in the state Assembly. Because they refuse to take action to combat this problem, our tax dollars are still hard at work purchasing scratch-off lottery tickets and showering dancers with dollar bills.
“Taxpayers should be outraged that their money is being used improperly by Welfare recipients for tobacco, alcohol, strip bars and lottery tickets, when times are so tough for so many families,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.
I, for one, join him in his outrage.
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