Statement by James Calvin, NYACS President, Concerning the Public Assistance Integrity Act

ALBANY, NY (02/04/2014)(readMedia)-- We wish to clarify one aspect of the proposed Public Assistance Integrity Act being voted on today by the Senate.

The federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 directs states to either enact a state law prohibiting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) recipients from accessing TANF funds at liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs using their EBT card – a sensible restriction that every taxpayer should embrace – or else forfeit millions of dollars a year in federal aid.

However, that federal law does not bar the use of welfare EBT to purchase alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets in retail stores, nor does it require states to impose such a restriction. Proponents have erroneously asserted that such a ban is necessary in order for New York to conform to the federal law.

We have the utmost admiration for Senator Libous and his colleagues. They have always been sensitive to small business issues. That's why we don't understand their insistence that New York go beyond the federal requirement by exposing neighborhood stores to $500 fines and loss of their state tobacco, beer, and/or lottery licenses.

Many of our retail members currently refuse welfare EBT as payment for tobacco, beer or lottery as a matter of store policy. But they cannot be expected to divine whether a customer purchasing such products with cash just withdrew it from a bank ATM around the corner using their welfare EBT card.

Our industry will abide by whatever law the Legislature and the Governor agree upon with regard to this issue. But we respectfully object to exposing retail store owners to harsh penalties in the name of complying with a federal mandate that does not exist.