Beacon Center and lawmakers team up to curb EBT card abuse

April 15, 2013 5:08PM

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee House of Representatives on Monday evening overwhelmingly passed legislation to curb welfare abuse. This comes on the heels of a Beacon Center investigation into questionable uses of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards in places such as strip clubs and liquor stores in large cities across the state. In late 2012, as part of its Tennessee Watchdog project, the Beacon Center published a series of investigative reports detailing purchases totaling thousands of dollars in liquor stores, nightclubs, and similar establishments. Soon thereafter, Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (R-Lancaster) worked with the Beacon Center to file legislation to fix the issue, with the support of Department of Human Services Commissioner Raquel Hatter and Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration. “We applaud Rep. Weaver, Sen. Tracy, Commissioner Hatter, and all those who supported this important effort to restrict the abusive use of EBT cards in our state,” said Beacon Center CEO Justin Owen. The bill, SB244/HB119, places the strictest possible limitations on the use of EBT cards and also requires the Department of Human Services to add further restrictions as soon as allowed by federal law. In addition to the consequences for recipients who abuse the program, establishments who accept EBT cards in violation of the law face severe penalties. The bill previously passed the state Senate unanimously. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it into law. “This legislation will further protect taxpayers and ensure that welfare benefits are used for their intended purpose—to help the children of the families on the program,” concluded Owen. The Beacon Center of Tennessee’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government. Visit the Center online at