OK Senator Files Bill To Stop Welfare Card Abuse

Saturday, January 26th 2013, 4:58 pm
By: News 9

There could be some changes on the way for state welfare recipients. An Oklahoma state senator filed a bill that would prohibit the use of welfare cash cards in strip clubs, liquor stores and casinos.

Freshman Senator Rob Standridge essentially says cards containing state or federal funds need tighter restrictions. Standridge says if government funds are wasted at places like strip clubs, liquor stores, and casinos, the programs can't achieve their purpose. 

According to the state Department of Human Services, over 300,000 people receive monthly state funds via direct deposit,or debit card. But only about 3,000 of those are traditional welfare, or TANF recipients.

"We're talking about a small percentage of the problem, but we still want to prevent fraud in any way we can," said DHS Communications Dir. Sheree Powell.

Powell says there are two different types of electronic cards used for DHS clients. The EBT SNAP card cannot be used at ATM's or non-food retailers, such as casinos or restaurants. But the Oklahoma Debit MasterCard works like any bank issued debit card, and can be used at thousands of retailers, banks, ATM's or anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

"There's no way to police every dollar that goes out like that," said Powell. "Now we are responsible for making sure those dollars go out to people who are eligible and making sure there is no fraud on that end."

"I don't want to say that this is a rampant problem, but I've learned dealing with humans for a few years, that when there is a possibility, it often happens." said Standridge.

Standridge says his proposal would work to make sure government funds are put to good use, providing support for those who need it, as they work to get back on their feet.

"For me, the most important thing is that the children involved in these scenarios is the ones that are the most important," said Standridge.

News 9 is told DHS has an aggressive fraud unit that monitors abuse, or misuse of government money. DHS and Senator Standridge say they plan to work together on his legislation.

Congress passed a bill last year which requires all states to come up with a solution to ensure the EBT and debit cards are not used at certain locations.