New welfare restrictions target booze, tattoos
BOSTON – Taking aim at what they call an abuse of the taxpayers’ money, a growing number of states are blocking welfare recipients from spending their benefits on booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets, casino gambling, tattoos and strippers.
“If you’re not abusing the program, then you should really have no problem with these reforms,” said state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, a Republican pushing for restrictions in Massachusetts.
While the crackdown has strong populist appeal in Democratic and GOP states alike in this era of tight budgets and tea party demands for fiscal discipline, advocates for the poor argue that the restrictions are based on stereotypes, and they say the notion of any widespread abuse is a myth. Most people on public assistance, they contend, are single mothers struggling just to get by.
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