Last Modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 5:03 PM
News that the state of Louisiana is tightening regulations on what welfare benefits can be spent on will be hailed by taxpayers who are footing the bill.
The state Department of Children and Family Services said welfare debit cards can no longer be used in lingerie stores, adult entertainment businesses, nightclubs, bars, video arcades, tattoo parlors, nail salons, jewelry stores, cruise ships and in any business that bars minors.
Anyone violating the new rules for a first offense will lose their welfare benefits for a year. A second violation would suspend benefits for two years. A third violation would end welfare benefits permanently for the offender.
Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier said the agency will ban the use of electronic benefit cards at businesses that don’t sell items considered basic needs for families.
State Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, said he plans to sponsor a bill in the current legislative session that will fine retailers who don’t follow the DCFS welfare benefit guidelines. That puts part of the onus for enforcement of these rules on retailers, particularly since welfare recipients can use their electronic benefit cards to obtain cash at ATMs.
“I hope that we can meet the spirit of intent of the program while also ensuring that state and federal tax dollars are being used appropriately,” said Broadwater.
In 2013, the state enacted new guidelines that banned spending welfare money on alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets.
About 3,500 households in Louisiana receive an average of $192 per month for welfare. About 2,400 households get an average of $419 a month for kinship care subsidies.
“This rule will not affect families who currently use the program as intended, which is to provide food, shelter and clothing for families,” said Sonnier.
Welfare has always been to help the poor acquire the basics for life. It was never intended for such luxuries as women’s nails, beer, cigarettes and tattoos.
These regulations that channel welfare spending in Louisiana for life’s necessities are long overdue.