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Welfare To Purchase Alcohol?

Written by DeShawn McQueen on Thursday, 12 July 2012. Posted in Breaking News, Alcohol

welfare purchase alcohol

Legislators are putting a lot of effort into determining how they can control and reform the way welfare recipients spend benefit money. States across the nation have either instituted, are in the process instituting or are considering instituting laws that would make it illegal to use welfare money to purchase alcoholic beverages.

In fact, President Barack Obama signed a reform law that mandates states to regulate welfare money spending by recipients. At least ten states, including Minnesota, Georgia, Michigan, California, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Florida have cooperated. The remaining states must comply by 2014 otherwise they are in jeopardy of losing $125 million in federal support.

The discussion of how to regulate the use of public assistance benefits has been a controversial and heated subject for quite some time now. A huge consensus of individuals vehemently believe that welfare benefits should not be used for what is often referred to as a luxury.

Among that luxury category or the category of what should be off limits is alcohol, not to mention cigarettes, gambling, and exotic entertainment. Many consider such purchases abuse of the welfare system, as they are not necessaries; They are non-essentials.

The federal government has suggested that states monitor purchasers, which is controversial even if only regarding privacy.

Yet, more and more states are beginning to monitor the use of welfare benefits. When abuse occurs they are beginning to impose harsh consequences, like warnings, temporary suspension of benefits, and eventually the permanent termination of benefits.

In an effort to regulate purchases and prevent non-essential purchases, many states are distributing welfare money by way a debit card, otherwise known as Electronic Benefits Transfer [EBT]. The card is used very much like a credit card or debit card as the user swipes it at a debit machine to make a purchase at a grocery store or service station. Also, individuals may obtain cash after depositing the card in an ATM machine or even obtain cash back where allowed.

Most states that have implemented the EBT system to distribute aid have used the system to block or deny purchases of alcohol. Some protocols in place include dividing purchases into two categories, one for food and the other for cash. This system works well, because no purchases other than food will be allowed when selecting the food option as a payment.

However, the cash option does not prevent the individual from obtaining cash to purchase alcohol which is clearly non-essential.

Another alternative is the requirement that a welfare recipient be subject to drug testing to obtain benefits. This is a viable option although it does not prevent recipients from using alcohol, as the test does not detect alcohol, particularly as it is a legal substance.

During 2011, the state of Massachusetts implemented state statutes that prohibit individuals from spending welfare benefits on purchases such as alcohol. If an individual does use benefits to purchase alcohol he must repay the money and may be fined a maximum of one thousand dollars. Perhaps more states should follow the precedent that Massachusetts has set.

What do think? Should welfare recipients be allowed to spend tax dollars on alcohol, or even cigarettes? Weigh in and let us know what you think.

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About the Author

DeShawn McQueen

DeShawn McQueen

DeShawn McQueen is a staff writer at Recovery Now Newspaper and, an informative newspaper that serves as a resource for persons of all stages of drug and alcohol treatment, by giving them access to relevant and necessary information so that they may live balanced and substance-free lifestyles. DeShawn graduated from Wayne State University with Bachelor of Science degrees in psychology and premedical sciences. He holds a Juris Doctors degree in law from Valparaiso University School of Law. DeShawn’s writing and research has been published in such academic journals as Behavioral Pharmacology and Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior among others. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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