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Louisiana Rules Welfare Money Cannot be Spent on Alcohol, Cigarettes, Lottery

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People receiving welfare benefits in Louisiana will not be able to spend the money on alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets, the state’s social services department has announced.

The regulations ban the use of welfare electronic benefits cards at liquor stores, strips clubs and gambling sites, in order to comply with a recently passed federal law, according to TheTownTalk.com. The Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act, passed by Congress in February 2012, prohibits the use of benefits in liquor stores, gaming establishments and adult-oriented entertainment establishments. Louisiana expanded the rule to prohibit the purchase of tobacco, alcohol or lottery tickets at any retailer.

The rules apply to two programs that provide cash assistance to low-income families for food, clothing and housing, the article notes. Anyone who violates the new rule will not receive welfare benefits for a year for the first offense, two years for a second and permanently for a third.

It may be difficult to track violations, because money can be taken off the electronic benefits card through an ATM. State officials said they will rely on businesses and the public to report suspected violations of the rule. The state will also randomly review transactions for possible use at prohibited locations.

“Today’s rule helps ensure that the assistance being received is being used for the purpose intended – to help a family meet their basic needs,” Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Suzy Sonnier said in a statement. “Today’s rule does not impact or hurt families who are using the benefits as intended each month, but instead target those who use the funds for purposes never intended by the program. This rule puts in place the type of accountability expected by the public, and is simply just common sense.”

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