The top leaders of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today unveiled new bipartisan legislation to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Welfare Integrity Now вЂ“ WIN for Children and Families Act would ensure the integrity of taxpayer dollars and prevents TANF benefits from being used inappropriately.
Many states issue welfare recipients an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card with cash benefits to assist families with ongoing basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. The EBT systems have not only simplified the distribution of financial assistance to individuals, but for the first time, provide a way of tracking where the benefits are withdrawn. As a result, states are discovering some TANF recipients making cash withdrawals from gambling casinos, liquor stores and adult entertainment venues. According to the California Department of Social Services, from January 2007 through May 2010, $3.9 million in state-issued cash benefits was withdrawn in casinos and $20,000 in adult entertainment establishments.
вЂњMisusing funds that were intended to prevent families and children from falling through the cracks is an affront on working Americans across the country and an abuse of taxpayer dollars,вЂќ said Hatch. вЂњOur legislation is a common-sense initiative that will put an end to this egregious abuse within the system and help realize the goal of helping the poorest of the poor reach financial independence and increased self-sufficiency.вЂќ
вЂњWith this bill, many families will continue to have the assistance they need to stay afloat,вЂќ said Baucus. вЂњEvery dollar kept out of the wrong hands is a dollar that goes toward helping families afford the items, such as food and shelter, that they need most.вЂќ
Specifically, the Hatch-Baucus legislation would require states to implement policies to prohibit assistance provided under the TANF block grant program from being used in casinos, liquor stores, and adult entertainment venues. If a state cannot demonstrate its compliance of the new law within two years of its enactment, the state would face a five percent reduction in its TANF block grant.