Welfare card withdrawals still occur at strip clubs, bars

EBT cards

Welfare card withdrawals at ATMs in strip clubs, bars and liquor stores are still going on, though the scope of the problem is at times overblown. Photo Credit: US Dept of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

Welfare, as it’s commonly called, is highly controversial, as many feel that people aren’t entitled to any money who are capable of working but refuse to do so. The cause of welfare advocates is not helped by sordid welfare card withdrawals, which are turning up at casinos, strip clubs and so forth nationwide.

New York Post finds welfare card withdrawals still going on at strip clubs

For about a decade or so, state and federal welfare benefits, be they food benefits or income assistance, have been distributed via prepaid debit cards, called Electronic Benefit Transfer cards or EBT. Some cards, especially those that come with a PIN, can be used to make cash withdrawals from automatic teller machines.

Over the years, a number of welfare card withdrawals have been found occurring in locations many would assume a person on welfare has no business being. Taxpayers, after all, fund welfare with taxes; finding out tax money is going to gambling, booze and strippers is disconcerting.

Then again, that hardly stopped the Republican party from doing the same stuff. Zing!

The seedy among the needy

The New York Post recently pored over two years of EBT withdrawals from ATMs, finding a number of welfare card withdrawals at strip clubs, bars, liquor stores and so forth, using ATMs that accept EBT cards. The Post obtained 200 million records, involving 18 months of data from 2011 and 2012, via a Freedom Of Information Act request. Many also make cash withdrawals to purchase alcohol or tobacco, which are illegal to purchase with welfare benefit funds.

The Post doesn’t say how many of such withdrawals were made nor compared them to spending habits of EBT recipients as a whole. Granted, it’s the New York Post; simply disclosing that such withdrawals were made is more sensational, ergo it irritates people, gets attention and sells newspapers. That’s how the American “news” media works – by presenting a “problem” without context or scale, it seems huge and sells copies or advertising time.


It isn’t just New Yorkers. Investigations over the past three years have found similar patterns and practices in Connecticut, according to NBC Connecticut, California, according to the Los Angeles Times, Oregon, according to Portland ABC affiliate KATU, Colorado, according to the Denver Post, and Nevada, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. In Washington state, according to KATU, nearly $1.7 million was withdrawn in Washington state casinos in 2010.

Many such ATMs also have ATM fees, which taxpayers are also on the hook for.

Thorn in grasping paw of welfare system

Critics have been sounding off about welfare card withdrawals and welfare abuse for years. As of July 2012, according to USA Today, 10 states had laws against withdrawals in locations like bars, casinos, convenience stores and strip clubs and a further 14 were mulling them. Federal legislation mandates all states have such laws by 2014. It certainly hurts the argument for advocates of the social safety net; after all, the working tax payer is eating the cost of these no-goodniks, meaning welfare needs reform or ablution.

For the panic-frenzied fiscal conservative however, the problem is often made to seem larger than it is. The behavior in question is rarely widespread. Those committing the actions are usually an extreme minority; the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post and NBC Connecticut all found it was less than 1 percent of all benefits recipients.


New York Post

NBC Connecticut

Los Angeles Times

Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/commented/ci_20058326

KATU: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Oregon-welfare-money-being-withdrawn-at-strip-clubs-casinos-149930975.html

Reno Gazette-Journal: https://www.rgj.com/article/20120320/NEWS/104230007/Welfare-abuse-rare-Nevada-card-users-paying-avoidable-fees?odyssey=nav|head

USA Today: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-07-08/welfare-purchase-restrictions/56100508/1

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