Food stamps have become a major facet of the American system. And as the number of welfare recipients increases, so does the number of items that can be purchased with a food stamp Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.
Government assistant programs have been on a steady recipient incline for the last 50 years. For the FY 2013, a record number of Americans were receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In 2008, 28.2 million Americans were on food stamps, and an additional 19.4 million have been added in the last five years. Today, 47 million Americans are on food stamps. (RELATED: Food Stamp Use Reaches Another High In September: 47.7 Million Participants)
According to Washington, D.C.’s Department of Human Service, SNAP’s mission is to help “low-income residents and families buy the food they need for good health.” You can apply for benefits by completing a State application form. Benefits are provided on an electronic card that is used like an ATM card and accepted at most grocery stores.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website, SNAP benefits (which are transferred to the EBT card) can only be used to buy healthy foods such as bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. The USDA also says that items such as hot food, pet food, soap, household supplies, beer, cigarettes and wine are strictly forbidden. But the SNAP program doesn’t have any way to actually enforce the rules. Because of this, the “rules” are more like soft guidelines, and that might explain the massive increase in welfare recipients in the past few years. (RELATED: USDA Suggests Food Stamp Parties, Games To Increase Participation)
Over the past few years, EBT has been used for some “questionable” items. Here are 11 questionable items that you can (or will soon be able to) purchase with an EBT card.
- Quesarito: Taco Bell is one of many fast food restaurants that accept EBT cards. Guacamole is extra? Who cares? It’s on the taxpayer.
- Bail: Convicted felons – like drug dealer Kimball Clark – have reportedly used their EBT as bail money. Clark reportedly instructed someone to go to an ATM to withdraw money from his EBT for bail. Because it’s difficult to trace ATM abuse, many speculate this problem is more widespread and not just found in isolated incidents.
- Lingerie: Kiss My Lingerie, an adult store in Gonzales, Louisiana, accepts EBT. Other adult stores have also been known to accept welfare transactions. In this case, officials said the store doesn’t violate the rules for EBT because of discrepancies in the law.
- KFC: Well, chicken is a protein, and protein is good for you, right? KFC is another well-known fast food chain that accepts EBT.
- Shoes: While Payless ShoeSource is known for their BOGO sales, they’re certainly not the cheapest place to buy shoes. Despite the prices and functionality, they also accept EBT.
- Strip clubs: Last year, the New York Post reported that FOIA requests revealed welfare recipients were regularly making EBT withdrawals at the ATMs near and inside infamous porn shops, liquor stores, lounges and hookah parlors. Technically, it also doesn’t break the law because of the “cash assistance program.”
- Lobster: There have been multiple cases of this. As long as it’s not tobacco or alcohol, you’re golden.
- Starbucks: While corporate stores don’t accept EBT, any Starbucks in a Target or grocery chain is considered a grocery item. So $7.00 for a mocha cookie crumble frappuccino and pumpkin loaf? Go.
- Cold hard cash: Some people are in the business of selling their EBT benefits for cash. Craigslist has been a great conduit for these “creative entrepreneurs.”
- K-cups: A lot of people don’t buy coffee in this form because it’s too expensive, but it’s not off limits in the world of welfare.
- Cupcakes/Gourmet cakes: It’s considered food, no matter the price. Hello, non-essential $45 cake.
Coming Soon? Pot: Colorado became the first state to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, and they also might become the first state to have tax payer funded pot smoking. A Colorado Pot Shop called Rite Greens has already taken the steps to officially accept EBT.
The government currently spends over $110 billion a year on food assistance programs, and they’re continually attempting to get more people on board the government program. (RELATED: USDA Partnering With Mexico To Boost Food Stamp Participation)