This year the state legislature is considering two bills that would limit the use of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards. EBT cards are used to distribute welfare benefits.
HB 219, a House bill, would prohibit the use of EBT cards at tattoo parlors, smoke shops, and marijuana dispensaries. Existing regulation already prohibits the use of EBT cards at liquor stores, casinos, and strip clubs.
SB 169, a Senate bill, would prohibit the use of EBT cards for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, lottery tickets, tattoos, firearms, or adult entertainment. SB 169 would also limit the use of cash withdrawn from EBT cards at ATMs, although that cash is very difficult to track. SB 169 also carries harsher penalties than the House bill.
MaryLou Beaver, New England director for the nonprofit Every Child Matters, worked with a committee of legislators last summer to study EBT restrictions. She supports the House bill, but opposes the Senate bill because of the harsh penalties.
"In [the Senate] bill, you are penalized the first time by losing two pay periods, the second time by losing four and the third time by losing six. At that point, you have just created homelessness for an entire family," said Beaver.
Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith), the sponsor of SB 169, sees the Senate bill as a way to ensure children are getting their family's benefits.
"If there are people not using the money the way it's supposed to be used, the family is not getting the nutritional food they need, and the limited resources we have as a state are not going to people who are really in need," said Forrester.
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