Just a few weeks after both the Michigan House of Representatives and the state’s Senate proposed separate bills that would force drug screens on welfare applicants, Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a bill into law that prohibits welfare recipients from withdrawing cash from ATMs in liquor stores, horse tracks and strip clubs.
Although the law may seem like a stricter policy against the state’s welfare recipients, it is actually a reaction to a federal law enacted last year. In 2012, the federal government passed a law forcing states to restrict ATM access for welfare recipients or risk losing up to 5 percent of the federal welfare funding. The states were given a deadline of 2014 to conform to these laws, so Snyder’s approval of the bill arrived just in time for the state to continue receiving an adequate amount of federal welfare funding.
Unlike the federal welfare program, the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) already has several restrictions in place about where the money can be used. According to the USDA website, SNAP benefits may not be used to purchase beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco, despite being eligible for all other food items. Welfare money, however, is more difficult to regulate, as it enters directly into a recipient’s bank account.
The new welfare restrictions appeal to politicians and supporters across party lines, as they emphasize a restriction of budget while allowing welfare recipients to continue receiving benefits. Several states have been enacting similar laws throughout the past few years. According to Fox News, California passed its restrictive ATM law after it found that $1.8 million in welfare benefits had been taken out of cash machines in state casinos throughout an eight-month period.
Despite having appeal for both parties, SF Gate reports that the Michigan bill was sponsored by three Republican legislators, Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) and Reps. Margret O’Brien (R-Portage) and Dale Zorn (R-Ida).