LANSING (WWJ) – The Michigan Senate has approved legislation that would block Bridge Card holders from withdrawing cash from ATMs located in strip clubs, liquor stores and race tracks.
The proposal would also have the state work with ATM service providers to come up with a way to block any transactions in those establishments.
It’s not clear how much the practice has been taking place. According to the Department of Human Services website, there are approximately 13,000 vendors in Michigan with ATMs that can be used to access Bridge Card benefits. Of those, 285 stores have the word “liquor” in the name.
State Sen. Morris Hood (D-Detroit), voted against the bill — although he agrees Bridge Cards should not be used at strip bars.
However, said Hood, in many urban neighborhoods there simply are not many ATMs.
Also, he said, welfare recipients do purchase groceries at liquor stores.
“If you wanna call them liquor stores, party stores, whatever — yes, a lot of times it’s the first line of defense where people get food at, because of the lack of grocery stores,” Hood said. “And, at some of the grocery stores, we have don’t have fresh food.”
Sen. Rick Jones, who introduced the bill, said if Michigan doesn’t act on this legislation — there could be consequences.
“If we do not comply with a federal law by 2014, we could be fined five percent of our TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal] grant money, and that means we could lose $40,000 to provide for the poor,” Jones said.
Jones (R-Grand Ledge) said the proposed bill is a natural followup to a law now in place that prevents cash withdrawals inside casinos. He said, last year,he discovered that one Michigan casino took in $87,000 from Bridge Cards.
More commonly called “food stamps,” monthly food assistance in Michigan is based on income, how many people are in their household and other criteria. Funds are made available on a Michigan Bridge Card, which like a debit card is swiped through electronic reader when buying groceries.
Roughly 1.9 million Michigan residents – nearly 20 percent of the state’s population – are covered by the program.
The package of bills now moves on to the House for approval.