The federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, was designed to provide financial assistance for purchasing food to low- and no-income people living in the United States.
In its current form, the program was first implemented in the early 1960s and for most of its history, paper-denominated “stamps” or coupons bound into booklets were distributed. In the late 1990s, the food stamp program was revamped, and some states began using a specialized debit card system know as Electronic Benefit Transfer to provide benefits. But still the idea is the same: assuring that all people in the United States had enough to eat.
With such a mandate, it follows that benefits would not be allowed to purchase certain items, the federal government has made it illegal to purchase both alcohol and cigarettes with SNAP benefits. In recent years, a growing number of states have also decided to block recipients of other types of benefits, including unemployment, from using their EBT cards to purchase booze or to gamble.
Arizona’s Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that prohibits welfare benefits from being spent at liquor, gambling, and adult entertainment businesses. In April, the Senate had passed the bill in a 26-1 vote. However, House Bill 2205 does allow the cards to be used at grocery stores located in the same building as a casino.
As unemployment remains stubbornly high — at last count it stood at 7.5 percent — the number of Americans receiving state-issued employments has stayed high as well. Because of the expenditures that this reality requires of states, congressional leaders have even pressured the White House to require benefit recipients to undergo drug testing in order to be able to apply for the aid.
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