Residents of the Sunflower State who receive public assistance through the Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program have just gotten a stern message: Use your welfare check for frivolous reasons and you’ll lose the privilege.
To ensure that federal and state dollars are being used appropriately, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, just signed a bill prohibiting his state’s welfare recipients from spending public aid on items and services that range from liquor to lottery tickets. Also off limits are tattoos, psychic readings, theme park passes and concert tickets.
Many other states – nearly half the states – restrict the ways in which government assistance can be used. The purchase of alcohol, tobacco and adult entertainment, for example, is off limits across the board. Although enforcement is hardly ironclad, there are penalties for rulebreakers.
At least 37 states issue their TANF cash benefits through electronic benefit transfer cards. These EBT cards function much like any other debit card: Users can withdraw cash and make purchases as they see fit. But to cut down on fraud, a number of states have been restricting the venues at which these cards can be used and the purchases that can be made with them. Click here to see a list of states that limit welfare purchases.
The Kansas law not only goes further than other states in terms of prohibited purchases, it also limits cash withdrawals to $25 a day. Guns are not off limits in Kansas, however (because residents might need them for hunting for food, or to defend themselves against a home invasion or other threat to their person or property). Indiana, however, does not allow gun store purchases with TANF benefits, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Interestingly, in Missouri right now, legislators are considering banning from the state’s food stamp program the purchase of cookies, chips and other junk food selections – and seafood and steak as well.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: