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What Can't You Spend Your Welfare Check On?

In a move criticized by many, Kansas enacted new rules limiting the use of cash assistance (also known as public assistance, or welfare).

Kansas' new law, which goes into effect on July 1, is an extensive ban on products and services that can't be purchased with cash assistance. Items that cannot be purchased with welfare include alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco products, lottery tickets, concert tickets, professional or collegiate sporting tickets, or sexually oriented adult materials. Cash assistance also cannot be used at casinos, tattoo parlors, nail salons, bail bond companies, or fortune telling businesses.

While Kansas' welfare law is the most restrictive law so far, laws prohibiting use of cash assistance for certain purchases are not rare

Federal Law

In 2012, President Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. Part of the law required states to implement policies that would prevent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards from being used at liquor stores, casinos, and adult entertainment stores.

States that fail to implement proper procedures limiting EBT use at banned locations risk losing federal grant money.

Other State Laws

While state laws prohibiting EBT use for certain purchases do vary, most states prohibit some or all of the following purchases: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, lottery tickets, guns, and adult entertainment. However, Kansas does not prohibit the use of benefits to buy guns. Go figure.

Missouri's Proposed Law

Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin also recently introduced House Bill 813. The bill seeks to prevent people enrolled in Missouri's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from using benefits to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak.

Brattin claims that the bill is aimed at encouraging healthy nutrition. However, he does insist that people are abusing the system by buying filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards. Opponents of the bill argue the limitations unfairly stigmatize the poor. At this point, it is unclear whether or not Brattin's bill has a chance of being passed.

Do you agree with these limitations, or do you think that they are unfair? 

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