Welfare Recipients Take Out Cash at Strip Clubs, Liquor Stores and X-Rated Shops

Kate Briquelet, New York Post, January 7, 2013

They’re on the dole—and watching the pole.

Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs—where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers, a Post investigation found.

A database of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request, showed welfare recipients using their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.

The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which oversees the “cash assistance program,” even lists some of these welfare-ready ATMs on its Web site.

One EBT machine is stationed inside Club Eleven, an infamous Hunts Point jiggle joint known as much for its violent history as its girls in pink thongs.

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Welfare recipients receive food stamps and cash assistance under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Both benefits are accessed through an EBT card, but only cash assistance—meant for housing, utilities and household necessities—can be accessed at ATMs.

A single-person household could receive a maximum $200 in monthly food stamps plus $158 in cash assistance. A family of four could get as much as $668 in food stamps and $433 in cash.

The food-stamp program prohibits the purchase of booze, tobacco and lottery tickets with an EBT card. But with the cash-assistance program, users can blow money on strippers or a six-pack and to tap welfare dollars from liquor stores, casinos and adult-oriented establishments.

The Post found dozens of pubs, nightclubs and tobacco shops where welfare dough was dispensed—and presumably spent.

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Legislative efforts to crack down on sinful spending have fallen short.

State Sen. Tom Libous (R-Binghamton) passed a bill in his chamber in June that would outlaw welfare withdrawals at gambling dens, strip clubs and other venues of vice, but the measure is gathering dust in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.

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The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, signed by President Obama last February, requires states to prohibit sinful welfare spending by 2014. If they don’t, they’ll forfeit federal cash.

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