Politics
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10:  Kethia Dorelus a social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: Kethia Dorelus a social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  

Report: Welfare recipients drawing taxpayer funds at strip clubs, liquor joints, porn shops

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Caroline May
Political Reporter

An investigation into where welfare recipients are using their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards has revealed that some are withdrawing taxpayer money from EBT-friendly ATMs at strip clubs and liquor stores.

The New York Post, looking at a database of 200 million EBT records from January 2011 to July 2012 obtained through a Freedom of Information request, discovered that some people receiving government benefits have been using their EBT cards to withdraw cash at several questionable New York establishments: Hank’s Saloon, a porn shop called Blue Door Video, the Patriot Saloon, the Club Eleven strip club, the Club Heat strip joint and Drinks Galore.

Food stamps and cash assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are accessible through EBT cards. EBT cash benefits can be withdrawn from participating ATMs.

While the Agriculture Department prohibits the purchase of alcohol, tobacco and non-food items, the Post notes that the cash recipients are withdrawing at these establishments — and presumably spending there as well — can be spent on the questionable purchases.

A spokesman with the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees TANF, told the Post that states are responsible for making rules governing the use of EBT cards. New York’s welfare office explained that it is the retailers who decide if they house an EBT-compatible ATM, not the state, which does not regulate the locations.

Last week, another Post investigation revealed suspiciously high price food stamp purchases — up to $500 in a single transaction — at various low-cost bodegas around the city. In the scam, the bodega will ring up a fake purchase, give the customer some of the cash and keep the rest.

City officials claimed to the Post that they want to investigate the bodega situation, but are hampered by a lack of data.

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