Law cracking down on welfare "sleaze" spending lacks consequence - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

Law cracking down on welfare "sleaze" spending lacks consequences

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A bill unanimously passed by the Virginia House and Senate cracks down on "sleaze spending," banning welfare money from gambling, liquor and strip clubs.

The new measure affects Virginians on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a welfare service that provides families with monthly payments to cover basic needs.

The bill now heads to Governor Bob McDonnell's desk, but a closer look at the bill reveals there will be no penalties if TANF recipients misuse taxpayer money.

"What we've done is to put a policy of accountability in place," said Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), chief patron of the bill. "It's the Virginia Department of Social Services' role to come up with the punishments if anyone violates the ban."

Purchases with TANF money are made with an electronic card, similar to a credit card. In a fiscal impact statement that accompanied the bill, the DSS wrote a multi-million dollar investment would be needed to monitor how all welfare money is spent.

The statement added that additional systems and staff would have to be put in place to make sure money was not spent at tattoo parlors, strip clubs or casinos. The Department will therefore enforce the ban through "educational and public awareness" measures.

DSS Director of Division of Benefit Programs Tom Steinhauser said welfare recipients will continue to use the honor system, and spending taxpayer money for strip clubs and casinos would not be in their best interests.

"There are no punishments yet," Steinhauser said in a phone interview Wednesday. "But after the bill becomes law, we could put enforcement measures in place."

The new ban is outlined in Senate Bill 1180. If signed into law by Governor McDonnell, the new restrictions will go into effect July 1, 2013.

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