From the Office of Senator Bob Dutton
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
SACRAMENTO – An effort by Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) to move California closer to making sure that those who receive welfare use those taxpayer funds as effectively and efficiently as possible was killed by Democrats during a hearing of the Senate Human Services Committee this week.
Senate Bill 417 would have prohibited those who receive welfare from using their Electronic Benefits Card (EBT) for the purchase of alcohol or tobacco products. Currently, those with EBT cards receive both their food stamps and welfare money, called CalWORKS benefits, on the ETB card. While current law does not allow recipients to use their food stamp portion of their benefits to purchase alcohol or tobacco, they can buy those items with the CalWORKS funds.
“You would think a simple common sense reform like trying to make sure taxpayer money is not used for the purchase of alcohol and tobacco would find bi-partisan support,” Senator Dutton said.
Abuses of the EBT card has received national attention over the last year, after the Los Angeles Times reported how millions of dollars of taxpayer money was being withdrawn with EBT cards from Indian Gaming Casinos, strip clubs, cruise ships, and Las Vegas. While the Governor issued an Executive Order to stop the use of EBT cards at these locations, it did not address stopping the purchase of alcohol or tobacco.
“These funds are designed to help the neediest in California meet their basic requirements of providing food, clothing and shelter,” Senator Dutton said. “I doubt there’s not a taxpayer in this state who believes purchasing alcohol or tobacco with welfare money constitutes a basic need and should be allowed.”
Senator Dutton further pointed out that more than half of welfare recipients are parents or caregivers who are no longer eligible for aid, but still receive cash assistance for their children.
“With over half of the caseload consisting of ‘child-only’ cases, it is unconscionable to allow designated caregivers the ability to purchase tobacco and alcohol products on behalf of a minor,” Senator Dutton said. “I was quite frankly surprised that Democrats believe that this practice should continue. I remain committed to continue working on real reform measures, like SB 417, to ensure that all taxpayer money is used as it is intended,” Senator Dutton concluded.