Welfare recipients would be unable to use their federal benefits at liquor stores, nail salons, bars, cruise ships and psychic businesses under legislation that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday.
The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare also tackled food stamp recipients. The panel advanced legislation that would cut off grocery assistance for Tangipahoa Parish residents without small children unless they seek an education or job training.
House Bill 1176 would put into state law what already exists in state rules. Welfare benefits aren’t supposed to be used for the purchase of alcohol, pornography, manicures, tattoos, amusement park tickets or psychic readings.
“These are benefits that are designed to buy food, clothing and school supplies,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Chris Broadwater.
Broadwater, R-Hammond, agreed to an exception that would allow grandparents to take their grandchildren to Chuck E. Cheese’s for pizza and games. He said grandparents might want to use their welfare benefits to reward their grandchildren for good grades.
State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, raised a concern about the bill decreasing food outlets in poor neighborhoods. She said welfare recipients often lack a car and shop at liquor stores that also sell bread and milk.
Broadwater assured her that convenience stores would not be impacted by the legislation. The bill advanced, without objection, to the full Senate.
House Bill 464 attempts to unravel a waiver of federal guidelines for food stamps. The guidelines call for able-bodied adults without small children in their home to participate in education activities or workforce training in order to continue receiving food stamps. Louisiana obtained a waiver to the guidelines.
Under the legislation, the state would seek approval from the federal government to restrict qualifying recipients in Tangipahoa Parish to three months of food stamps every three years if they refuse to further their education or job skills. Anyone with dependents would be exempt from the pilot program.
“We want to lift people up,” Broadwater said.
The bill advanced to the full Senate.
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