State Rep. John Reilly of Oakland today introduced legislation to prevent cash assistance from being used to purchase alcohol and drugs, or for other inappropriate purposes.
Cash could not be withdrawn from an ATM or point of sale device at a store under Reilly’s bill.
“It’s tremendously irresponsible for the state to give away tax dollars in cash, with no ability to regulate how the money is ultimately spent,” Reilly said. “A bridge card’s purpose is to help families that need the assistance. Using cash assistance from an ATM to buy drugs or alcohol is breaking the law, but we currently have no means to enforce it.”
A bridge card is issued to purchase certain food products and access cash benefits at a number of retailers and ATMs throughout the state.
Under a recent law, bridge card holders cannot access cash benefits from ATMs at strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos. In 2013, a state investigation found that one casino in Michigan dispensed $87,000 from bridge cards. However, cash can still be obtained today from other ATMs throughout the state.
Misuse of food benefits is a violation of state and federal laws. Bridge cards also cannot be used to purchase lottery tickets, alcohol or tobacco. Cards can’t be used for gambling or illegal activities. People who break Food Assistance Program and cash program rules may be disqualified from the program, fined or put in prison.
“The ostensible purpose of welfare benefits is to empower citizens to put their lives back together and lift themselves out of poverty. We let these citizens down by enabling them to feed destructive behaviors using this cash assistance,” Rep. Reilly concluded.
The legislation also requires that an individual’s picture be placed on their bridge cards upon issuance to discourage selling bridge cards as commodities.
House Bill 5560 has been assigned to the Michigan House Families, Children and Seniors Committee.