A motion introduced by Jay Gould, R-Ashville, and adopted by the Chautauqua County Legislature provides strong bipartisan support to efforts by Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, and state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, to reduce welfare abuse.
At its last meeting, the Chautauqua County Legislature voted in support of the Public Assistance Integrity Act, which would prohibit welfare recipients from using their benefit cards to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or lottery tickets. The legislation also prohibits the use of a welfare benefit card to obtain cash at a casino, liquor store or adult entertainment facility.
Gould said most welfare recipients use their welfare benefits in an appropriate manner to feed and clothe their children while they search for a job, but some welfare recipients abuse these benefits by spending taxpayer money for liquor, cigarettes and adult entertainment.
Goodell said he supports doing all that can be done to help people get back on their feet and into the workforce, but welfare benefits were never intended to support a counterproductive lifestyle.
"It is just not appropriate for welfare benefits to be used for gambling, lap dances, or drinking alcohol," Goodell said.
The legislation would bring New York into compliance with the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which requires that states prohibit welfare spending on certain activities. States that fail to comply could forfeit five percent of their federal welfare funding, which would cost New York residents $120 million in lost federal funding.
The legislation passed the state Senate during the last week of the regular session, but did not make it onto the floor of the state Assembly for a vote. The Assembly bill is sponsored by Assemblyman George Latimer, R-Rye, and co-sponsored by Goodell. The bill is pending in the Assembly Social Services Committee.
"We've worked hard to protect taxpayers. The tax cap that we passed last year limits the growth of property taxes, but counties need more mandate relief in order to live within these new requirements. That's why I'm pushing hard for legislation like the Public Assistance Integrity Act, which will improve the welfare program and bring savings for local county budgets," Goodell said.