A motion introduced by Legislative Chairman Jay Gould and overwhelmingly adopted by the County Legislature provides strong bi-partisan support to efforts by Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Senator Cathy Young to reduce welfare abuse.
At its last meeting, the County Legislature voted overwhelmingly in support of the Public Assistance Integrity Act, which would prohibit welfare recipients from using their benefit cards to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or lottery tickets. The legislation also prohibits the use of a welfare benefit card to obtain cash at a casino, liquor store, or adult entertainment facility.
Chairman Gould noted that most welfare recipients use their welfare benefits in an appropriate manner to feed and clothe their children while they search for a job, but some welfare recipients abuse these benefits by spending taxpayer money for liquor, cigarettes, and adult entertainment.
Assemblyman Goodell emphasized that he supports doing all we can to help people get back on their feet and into the workforce, but welfare benefits were never intended to support a counterproductive lifestyle. “It is just not appropriate for welfare benefits to be used for gambling, lap dances, or drinking alcohol.”
The legislation would bring New York into compliance with the federal Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which requires that states prohibit welfare spending on certain activities. States that fail to comply could forfeit five percent of their federal welfare funding, which would cost New York residents $120 million in lost federal funding.
The legislation passed the Senate during the last week of the regular session, but did not make it onto the floor of the Assembly for a vote. The Assembly bill is sponsored by Assemblyman George Latimer (D-Rye), and cosponsored by Assemblyman Goodell (R,C— Chautauqua). The bill is currently pending in the Assembly Social Services Committee.
Chautauqua County taxpayers shell out about $1.5 million per month on welfare benefits, or about $50,000 a day. County Executive Greg Edwards, the County Legislature, Assemblyman Goodell, and Senator Young have been working together to reduce those costs by streamlining and strengthening the welfare-to-work program and other initiatives.
“We’ve worked hard to protect taxpayers. The tax cap that we passed last year limits the growth of property taxes, but counties need more mandate relief in order to live within these new requirements. That’s why I’m pushing hard for legislation like the Public Assistance Integrity Act, which will improve the welfare program and bring savings for local county budgets,” concluded Goodell.