RICHMOND — A bill sponsored by Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, that would place certain restrictions on purchases made with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, benefits passed unanimously this morning in the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee of the House of Delegates. Under state law, TANF beneficiaries may use the benefits for any goods or services.
TANF is a federal program that provides monthly funds to needy families with children for up to 60 months. Virginia has instituted a 24-month limit for families that are required to participate in the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare, or VIEW.
Wilt’s legislation would ban the use of benefits to purchase alcohol, tobacco, sexually explicit visual material, and lottery tickets. In addition, the legislation prohibits recipients from using benefits in strip clubs, casinos, and tattoo and body piercing parlors.
“While I am confident that the majority of recipients are using benefits for their intended purpose, it should not be the policy of the commonwealth to openly accept the purchase of goods and services that in no way can be considered a basic necessity,” Wilt stated. “This bill reaffirms that we will not accept this misuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Undercover investigations in numerous states have identified use of TANF benefits in casinos, strip clubs, bars and liquor stores. Legislation recently passed by Congress requires states to adopt policies that prohibit the use of electronic TANF benefits in liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.
Wilt’s legislation goes farther, barring additional goods and services that he says are no more worthy of purchase with taxpayer dollars than the items prohibited by the federal law.
With passage in the House Committee, the bill will now move to the full House of Delegates for consideration.
— Staff Reports