State Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio, R-C-I-Gowanda, is pushing for the state Assembly to pass the Public Assistance Integrity Act in order to comply with federal guidelines or risk losing roughly $120 million in federal aid.
Giglio has been pushing for passage of this legislation for several years and is a co-sponsor of Assembly Bill 2386 - also known as the Public Assistance Integrity Act - to protect existing public assistance funds by banning the use of electronic benefit transfer cards in casinos, liquor stores and strip clubs, and prohibiting the purchase of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or lottery tickets.
"There are truly needy families and children across New York State that rely on public assistance in order to get back on their feet after a job loss, sickness, or other tragic circumstance," Giglio said. "The problem is that some people are spending this money in a wasteful way and are taking advantage of a program meant to assist those in need. The federal government has demanded that in order to receive its funding, we must reform the EBT program to ensure that abuse is stopped and loopholes are closed. It's very simple: families relying on assistance should be buying necessities, not beer, cigarettes and lottery tickets."
The state Senate has passed its version of the bill three times, but the Assembly majority has refused to bring the bill for a vote. Giglio, an advocate for welfare reform who has consistently been a sponsor of this legislation, said the bill was originally introduced by the Assembly Rules Committee. The new bill has been referred to and remains in the Assembly Social Services Committee.
Giglio and many of his colleagues are calling for quick passage of the bill in order to comply with federal regulation. New York stands to lose more than $120 million in federal temporary assistance funding if it does not comply by Feb. 22.
"The responsible thing to do is to lead by example, pass this legislation to bring back some accountability and integrity to the public assistance system, and restore the faith of taxpayers that public assistance is to provide assistance for necessities," Giglio said.