The state Legislature took a step forward when it approved a changes to social services law that will prevent Electronic Benefit Transfer cards from being used to pay for liquor, strippers, and gambling.
Those on public assistance will no longer be able to use their cards for payment or cash withdrawals at liquor stores, beer wholesalers, casinos, racetracks and strip clubs. A liquor store could face a $50 fine for its first violation of the new law and suspension of its liquor license for a second offense. Casino workers could face misdemeanor charges if they are caught accepting EBT cards more than twice.
Good. Most of those on welfare indeed use the money they receive for groceries for their families and to keep a roof over their heads. The state should make it harder for those who use the welfare system as anything else but a hand up during a rough time. Using welfare on such frivolous things as booze or gambling costs all of those who pay into the system.
There will also always be those who scour the law for loopholes to take advantage of the system. Taking some of these easy avenues away from those who abuse the welfare system is a good first step. No one should be under the false impression that we still can't do more to wring waste and abuse out of our social services spending. As state Sen. Catharine Young, R-C-I-Olean, so aptly said, "Every day, I hear from frustrated people from my district who witness welfare fraud and abuse, and feel powerless to fix it."
Those people may well be talking about using EBT at strip clubs, casinos or in liquor stores. They're talking about people approved for welfare under false pretenses, who work for cash under the table and still receive welfare benefits or who inflate the number of dependents in order to increase their monthly welfare checks. We must continue to be vigilant about pre-screening applicants and following up more regularly to be sure those who actually need help are the only ones receiving it.