Locals react to crackdown on EBT card abusers - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Locals react to crackdown on EBT card abusers

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The state has a warning for people who get cash assistance from the government to buy necessities for their families. You could lose your benefits if you are caught spending the government funds on things like manicures, tattoos, psychics, jewelry, bail bonds services, amusement and video arcades, and cruise ships.

The State Department of Children and Family Services said there has been a growing problem with abuse.

"We rely a lot on the eyes and ears of the public," said Suzy Sonnier, Secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services, or DCFS.

The funds are to be used for specific purposes to assist families.

"Those resources are provided to ensure that families can get their basic needs met, so it could be food, shelter assistance, assistance for transportation to be able to get to their jobs - those kinds of things," Sonnier said.

The goal is to prevent electronic benefit transfer transactions at stores and establishments that don't meet the cash assistance program's requirements.

Sonnier said while the cards issued through the Family Independence Temporary Assistance and Kinship Care Subsidy Programs look like the food stamp EBT cards, they are not the same, and the food stamp program is not affected by the new rules regarding cash assistance cards.

People on the streets of New Orleans have different views on the crackdown.

"I think that's wrong," said Racquel McClouet. "They're supposed to take care of their kids with that first. They're supposed to take care of their kids. I take care of mine." 

Tyrone Allen is not offended by what some recipients choose to buy with the government funds.

"Because the money is coming from taxpayer dollars, I feel as though personally there's nothing wrong with them doing what they want to do with the money if they choose to do with it," Allen said. "Me being a taxpayer, some of those people work, they just choose to collect those dollars."

He said a mindset shift is what is really needed because the state cannot police all recipients.

"If their heart is not in the right place to do what's the responsible thing, then nothing is going to change that. We may have to get a program to change how people parent," said Allen.

There is also a bill being proposed that would strengthen DCFS's new rule and allow the state to go after businesses that let people make prohibited purchases.

"To fine retailers who are not following the proper guidelines," said Sonnier.

A first offense would result in a loss of benefits for 12 months, a second offense means the loss of benefits for 24 months, and benefits are permanently withdrawn after a third offense.

If you suspect someone is illegally receiving public assistance benefits or using them inappropriately, click here. You can also call 1-888-LAHELP-U and select option 7 from the main menu.

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