SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — New legislation would impose more restrictions on where and how recipients can use their welfare benefits.
One bill going through the House right now would prohibit TANF recipients from taking out cash at an ATM using their EBT cards. Another bill would increase the penalty for those misusing TANF or SNAP, also called Food Stamps, benefits.
“The harm outweighs the good that would be done by this bill,” said Ashley Quinn, coordinator of organizational outreach with Empower Missouri.
He is talking about HB 1443, a bill that places restrictions on how families can use TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The cash benefits are meant to help with children in the household with things like clothing or utilities.
Right now, the TANF EBT card cannot be used to buy cigarettes or alcohol, or be used at casinos, liquor stores or other adult-oriented businesses. But it can be used at an ATM.
“At which point you can take that cash and do all of those prohibited things and nobody would know,” said Representative J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, the sponsor of the bill.
Eggleston says other programs like SNAP and WIC don’t allow recipients to cash out benefits.
But Quinn, says the legislation would be putting limitations on families who need the cash.
“Families wouldn’t be able to pull out any cash whatsoever to be able to go to the garage sale next door to buy their kids some clothes, or go to the laundromat down the street,” she said.
Rep. Eggleston says there are other ways recipients can get cash.
“There are work requirements currently in the TANF program. TANF is really there to supplement that, not be the sole source of cash.
Quinn says the process to be in the program is already highly regulated and that Empower Missouri is against adding yet more barriers for the state’s most vulnerable.
“If we limit that, really we are taking money that we are paying as taxpayers to the federal government, and we are taking it away from our fellow Missourians,” he said.
But Rep. Eggleston says his bill helps protect Missourians using TANF and taxpayers.
That measure would increase penalties for misusing TANF or SNAP benefits.
The first time recipients would lose their benefits for three months. A second offense would carry a six-month penalty. And a third time would mean they lose benefits for five years.
“A key component of TANF is that it’s for families. So, even if you had somebody that was misused, the kids in the family don’t deserve to be punished for something that someone else has done that might have been improper,” said Quinn.
Both bills are still going through the House. Quinn says there’s still time to contact your legislator to let hem know where you stand on these measures.