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No more tobacco with EBT?

Posted at 2:13 PM on April 28, 2008 by Michael Marchio

HF3376, the Minnesota Family Investment Program policy bill, is being heard on the floor right now. That's the name for public assistance, or if you prefer, welfare, according to our state's own unique jargon. Sounds like most of the bill is updating provisions, and establishing a child care advisory task force, nothing too controversial, but Minority Leader Seifert has just offered an interesting amendment.

It would prevent people receiving MFIP from using their EBT cards from to buy alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets.

Rep. Neva Walker, who authored the bill, is explaining how it works, and it sounds like according to her, people aren't able to use their EBT debit cards to buy alcohol, tobacco, and lotto tickets, but that if they use the card to withdraw cash, there's nothing that can be done about that.

Rep. Seifert says that EBT cards, the debit cards foodstamp money is stored on, also have some cash on them. Rep. Seifert says that alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets can't be purchased under the foodstamp money, but can under the cash part.

Don't look for a Commissioner's whistle here, I don't know enough about the MFIP program to know whether buying this stuff is possible with the cards or not, but I'll get to work on an answer for you.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) said she will vote for the amendment, but doesn't like the stereotypes being perpetuated on the floor.

"We're talking about people who are poor, we're talking about people who need our help, mostly mothers and children."

Rep. Walker is saying that the state should look at the reasons why people are on public assistance and that they only receive $432 a month, a pretty impossible amount to live off of. She's giving a very spirited defense of her bill as it stands.

Here's the vote: 102-28 it is adopted.