February 01,2012

Press Contact:

Julia Lawless, Antonia Ferrier, 202.224.4515

Hatch Praises House Passage of Bipartisan Bill Reforming TANF Program

Utah Senator Urges Senate Action on Legislation that Would Prevent Misuse of TANF Funds

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, today praised House passage of bipartisan legislation to bring common-sense reforms to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program by preventing those benefits from being used at casinos, liquor stores or strip clubs.  The legislation, Welfare Integrity Now – WIN for Children and Families Act (H.R. 3567), overwhelmingly passed the House today by a vote of 395 to 27. Hatch is the lead sponsor of companion legislation in the Senate.

“These benefits are supposed to help families get back on their feet, but are too often being misused, leaving taxpayers and the truly disadvantaged on the hook.  That is simply unacceptable,” said Hatch. “This common-sense legislation makes critical reforms to ensure that these benefits are used as they are intended.  With the House passing this legislation for a third time, it’s time for the Senate to take up this legislation to bring some critical reforms to this safety net program.” 

Many states issue welfare recipients an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card with cash benefits to assist families with ongoing basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. The new electronic system has found a number of abuses within the program, including cash withdrawals from gambling casinos, liquor stores and adult entertainment venues. According to the California Department of Social Services, from January 2007 through May 2010, $3.9 million in state-issued cash benefits was withdrawn in casinos and $20,000 in adult entertainment establishments.

The WIN for Children and Families Act would require states to implement policies to prohibit assistance provided under the TANF block grant program from being used in casinos, liquor stores, and adult entertainment venues.  If a state cannot demonstrate its compliance of the new law within two years of its enactment, the state would face a five percent reduction in its TANF block grant. 

The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the TANF program.