Bill limits where welfare recipients spend benefits

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of the House Health and Welfare Committee.

The Department of Children and Family Services already has enacted the restrictions in emergency rules. The bill (House Bill 1176) by Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, would enshrine them in law.

Broadwater said he wants to make sure people use the federal aid to provide basic needs for their families.

The restrictions would cover the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program – commonly known as welfare benefits – and the Kinship Care Subsidy Program. Both programs pay cash assistance to low-income families for items like food, clothing and housing.

Also barred under the bill from taking welfare debit cards would be video arcades, bail bond companies, cruise ships, psychics, adult-entertainment businesses, nightclubs, bars and any businesses where minors are not allowed.

Violators would stop receiving welfare benefits for a year for a first offense, two years for a second offense and permanently for a third offense. Businesses that violate the law would be fined $500 for a first violation, $1,000 for a second time and $2,500 for additional violations.

Tracking violations may be difficult, however, because the welfare money can be taken off the electronic benefit card as cash through an ATM.

The measure, backed without objection, moves next to the full House for debate.

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