TN lawmaker looks to add restrictions on welfare cards - WSMV Channel 4

TN lawmaker looks to add restrictions on welfare cards

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Taxpayer money that is supposed to help families buy necessary items like clothes is sometimes instead being used at strip clubs and liquor stores.

It turns out there are no restrictions on where welfare benefits can be used, but state lawmakers are looking to change that.

It's officially called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but you probably know it as "welfare."

The money that's designed to help families buy necessities is loaded on to an electronic benefits card, and as the Channel 4 I-Team first uncovered, those cards are sometimes swiped in some pretty strange places in Nashville - including adult shops, liquor stores and Broadway bars.

Similar swipes were found in Memphis and Knoxville, and State Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, said he hears complaints from constituents about use of the cards all the time and that there needs to be some accountability.

"It just really irritates me, because that's not what it's designed to do, and these people are taking advantage of taxpayer money and using that taxpayer money to fund what they want to do," Tracy said.

The lawmaker's bill would prohibit using the cards at adult stores, liquor stores and tattoo parlors and also forbid purchases of lottery tickets and tobacco products.

"That card is supposed to help someone - help pull them out when they are having a problem. It's a safety net for them, and they are using for things they shouldn't use it for," Tracy said.

Tennessee has only a certain amount of time to get this done. Congress passed a law last year that requires states to have restrictions on the use of welfare cards by 2014 or else they will lose federal money.

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