Luxuries You Can Buy With Your EBT Card – Bail & Lingerie Included!
Listen, I understand that people sometimes need help. And, I, personally, have never been against the concept of food stamps, provided they are used in the way they were intended, to temporarily give a helping hand to those that need it the most. However, with 48 million Americans currently on food stamps, an all time record high in this country, and abuses of the program running rampant, we can all surmise that it’s not just the truly needy who are using, or worse, abusing, the system.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards, in the former, non-PC, term we called it food stamps, are supposed to help low income residents buy the foods they need for good health and nutrition. Households and persons apply for them on a state level, and benefits are provided on an electronic card that works like an ATM debit card does and are accepted at most grocery stores. These benefits are supposed to help people purchase healthy foods like bread, cereal, fruits, veggies, meat and dairy. Other items like prepared hot foods, pet food, soap, household goods, beer, cigarettes, and other alcoholic beverages, are not allowed to be purchased under the SNAP program.
But, according to a recent article in The Daily Caller, these rules are more like “soft guidelines” and are not strictly enforced. Over the past few years, EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards, which is the electronic system most states use to transfer welfare benefits to low income and needy families, and is also tied to the same card used for SNAP benefits, have been used to purchase some items that one would surely think would fall outside of the acceptable usage guidelines. Among these things are the following:
Fast Foods and Restaurants
Taco Bell and KFC are some of many fast food restaurants that accept EBT cards. The states of Florida, California, Arizona and Michigan allow select restaurants like Golden Corral, McDonald’s, and Subway to accept EBT cards.
If you live in Michigan, you have a lot of variety in your choices for eating out on the government dime. Feel free to spend your food stamp benefits at Church’s Chicken, KFC, McDonald’s, Subway, Grandma’s Famous Chicken, Eight Mile Pancake House, Mr. T’s BBQ, and Vito’s Pizza.
California residents can use them at Jack in the Box, Subway, El Pollo Loco, and if they feel like a nice slice, at Papa Murphy’s Pizza.
Floridians can eat out, compliments of taxpayer money, at KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Papa Murphy’s Pizza.
And, Arizona residents can stop on in for a quick bite at Golden Corral, Southern Cuisine, or Rally’s Hamburgers, or pick up a pizza at Domino’s.
Convicted felons have reported using their EBT cards for bail money. Drug dealer Kimball Clark reportedly instructed someone to go to an ATM to withdraw money from his EBT for bail. ATM EBT use is difficult to trace, so many speculate this problem could be widespread.
An adult store in Louisiana, called Kiss My Lingerie, accepts EBT, and other adult stores have also been known to accept it. In the Louisiana case, officials said the store doesn’t violate the rules for EBT because of discrepancies in the law. Basically, the way this one works, is that not only is food stamp money added to the EBT card, but so are cash benefits, which can be used on anything, not just food products.
The state does not dictate how families spend that money, therefore it can technically be spent at that store. The only items “cash” benefits can not be used on are alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, casinos and adult entertainment (so, I guess buying movies at the adult store are a no-no, but other that that, you’re good to go).
EBT cards are accepted at some PayLess shoe stores. Again, like with the example above, many EBT cards don’t just have food stamp benefits on the accounts, but could also have welfare checks (in more PC terms cash benefits) added to them, thus they can be used at PayLess, since they are setup to accept them. By the same token, I would imagine they can be used to buy hard goods at stores like Walmart as well, not just food.
While this would seem to go against the idea of being able to use “cash benefits” for adult entertainment, last year the New York Post reported that OIA requests revealed welfare recipients were regularly making EBT withdrawals at the ATMs near and inside infamous porn shops, liquor stores, lounges and hookah parlors. Technically, it also doesn’t break the law because the “cash assistance program” (i.e. welfare) allows you to take out cash. So, if the recipient is withdrawing money at the ATM, the establishment isn’t technically accepting the card, but rather the cash the person is offering them. Easy way to skirt the law, I guess.
Lobster & Other “Luxury” Food Items
Multiple cases of this have been reported, and the lobster eating food stamp recipient who gained fame on FOX news recently jumps to mind, of course. I have also heard stories from cashiers at grocery stores, who report food stamp spenders buying expensive brands, rather than more economical brands of food, and purchasing things like expensive fish, seafood, and steaks. Technically, I suppose, it’s not breaking the law, I just wish I could afford to eat like that!
While you can’t use an EBT card at a corporate store, any Starbucks in a Target or grocery store is considered a grocery item, therefore feel free to purchase all the Café Vanilla Frappuccino’s you can drink out of the pocketbooks of US taxpayers, many of whom work hard to provide for their families, pay their taxes, and could not justify spending $5 on a cup of coffee. And, while you are at it, throw in a fresh baked good, like a croissant or a piece of banana nut loaf. No problem.
Now, I will admit I am in love with my Kuerig coffee maker. And, I am willing to dole out the extra money for K-cups, instead of traditional bulk coffee, in my preferred flavors. But, I’m also not paying for them with money taken from other hard working taxpayers. But, of course, anyone with an EBT card is free to purchase these very expensive coffee treats at the grocery store. I guess they can also buy the pricey coffee maker itself too, with the “cash benefits” portion of their food stamp card, if they get that program as well from the government.
Gourmet Bakery Cakes/Cupcakes/Baked Goods
It’s considered food. It’s not hot. So feel free to drop that $40 bakery cake in your shopping cart and pay for it with the EBT card. Me? I will have to bake my own cake, because there is no way this side of Hades, I am paying more than maybe $10 to $15, on a good day, for a store bought cake, unless it’s a wedding cake!
Cold Hard Cash
This has been going on long before EBT cards were in existence. I remember people 20 years ago selling food stamps, the kind you tore from a booklet, for pennies on the dollar. But, now with the advent of the internet, and venues like Craigslist and social media, it has just become easier for people to sell their EBT benefits for cash. This type of fraud costs the US taxpayers $750 million per year.
Well, not quite yet, but Colorado might become the first state to have tax payer funded pot smoking. A pot shop called Rite Greens, in Colorado, has already taken steps to officially accept EBT cards. According to the logic of store owner, “Everyone should have access to marijuana. If a user is not able to afford their buds on a limited budget then having taxpayers help cover the shortage is fair.” Say whaaaaat?
The sad fact is, our government spends over $110 billion a year on financial assistance. And, the numbers keep growing. USDA has actively tried to get more people to enroll in their food stamp and nutrition programs, including those who say they don’t even need financial assistance. They offer training material to help recruiters of the program “overcome the word no,” when trying to sign people up. And, they actively advertise to people to encourage participation, including advertising the program in foreign countries, like Mexico. This is un-sustainable for our country and the fraud will continue to grow as more people enter the system.
While food stamp benefits and cash assistance are two different things, the problem is both types of benefits are loaded onto a state issued EBT card, which functions as a debit card. The food benefits portion (SNAP) should only be used to purchase food and non-alcoholic beverages. The welfare benefits (cash benefits portion), includes general assistance from state programs and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a program that provides cash assistance for families with dependent children. These are benefits to help cover basic needs such as housing, electricity, water, clothing for families, etc., however it is not as closely regulated as the SNAP program is. Although, I suspect that the SNAP program is not being monitored as tightly as it should be either.
The idea of using these benefits for the luxuries above is just as appalling to me, is not a responsible use of taxpayer funds, and is not in the best interest of families in need across our country. Recently, in Louisiana, welfare recipients have been banned from spending their assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons, liquor stores, strip clubs, gambling establishments, and jewelry stores, which is a step in the right direction. However, since the EBT cards can also be used to withdrawal cash, it makes me wonder how they can even possibly enforce this.