Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-C-I-Lewiston, is sponsoring the bipartisan Public Assistance Integrity Act in the Assembly. The bill is designed to prevent public assistance money from being spent at casinos, liquor stores, tobacco retailers and adult entertainment facilities. Ceretto said the bill's intent is to ensure that public funds are used to help families provide the basic necessities for their children, and not spent on non-essential goods.
"The Public Assistance Integrity Act needs to be passed to establish an important safeguard against the abuse of public assistance funds. Public assistance is intended to help families pay for basic essentials while they get back on their feet," Ceretto said. "When these funds are used at casinos or strip clubs, families in need are deprived of crucial money, while taxpayers get ripped off. Prohibiting the use of these funds for non-essential purposes protects both children and taxpayers."
Public assistance benefits are typically given through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards, which function similar to debit cards. As state law currently stands, there are no protections in place to keep people from spending this money on non-essentials and entertainment. On the federal level, the Public Assistance Protection Act requires states to enact policies that prevent misuse of public assistance money provided through federal programs. Thus, the Public Assistance Integrity Act is required to bring New York state law into compliance with federal law.
"Protecting public assistance from abuse is a reasonable policy that members on both sides of the aisle should be working toward. New York is long overdue to get on board with this common-sense legislation," Ceretto said. "It is wrong that taxpayer money intended to help needy families can be spent on liquor, tobacco and other unnecessary items. This bill ensures that our public assistance money is spent wisely and is not abused."