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State Lawmakers Eye Welfare Abuse

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Booze, strip clubs and trips to your nearest psychic. State lawmakers say Alabama taxpayers are footing the bill for all of it, but those days could soon be coming to an end if a newly filed bill passes through the Legislature.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) is sponsoring a bill that would block the use of welfare benefits for frivolous items, and also hand out punishments like jail time and loss of benefits for recipients who try to get around the rules.

Orr told WHNT News 19 that a very small portion of welfare recipients are costing taxpayers untold millions thanks to outrageous purchases that include alcohol, tattoos, lottery tickets and even psychic readings. If Senate Bill 7 passes, first-time offenders would have their benefits suspended for one month, while a third offense would lead to a permanent cutoff. Welfare recipients now receive electronic debit cards that work like any other bank-issued card.

"Taxpayers expect accountability, and if people are receiving taxpayer assistance they ought to be playing within the rules," said Sen. Orr. "I really don't expect any pushback from those who are abiding by the rules...The benefits are supposed to be going to help the children in families, and for the adults to take it and blow it on casinos, liquor, tobacco, it's literally taking the children's milk money."

Lawmakers are expected to take up Senator Orr's bill when they return to Montgomery next month.

Similar laws have already passed in other states, including Arizona and Indiana. Lawmakers said welfare fraud and abuse likely costs Alabama taxpayers several million dollars per year.