Kate Briquelet @ The New York Post:
They’re on the dole — and watching the pole.
Welfare recipients took out cash at bars, liquor stores, X-rated video shops, hookah parlors and even strip clubs — where they presumably spent their taxpayer money on lap dances rather than diapers, a Post investigation found.
A database of 200 million Electronic Benefit Transfer records from January 2011 to July 2012, obtained by The Post through a Freedom of Information request, showed welfare recipients using their EBT cards to make dozens of cash withdrawals at ATMs inside Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn; the Blue Door Video porn shop in the East Village; The Anchor, a sleek SoHo lounge; the Patriot Saloon in TriBeCa; and Drinks Galore, a liquor distributor in The Bronx.
The state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which oversees the “cash assistance program,” even lists some of these welfare-ready ATMs on its Web site.
One EBT machine is stationed inside Club Eleven, an infamous Hunts Point jiggle joint known as much for its violent history as its girls in pink thongs.
Cops have been cracking down on the Bronx club since 2009 and shut it down temporarily in 2010. In July, five men were stabbed and two others shot outside after bouncers broke up a 4 a.m. brawl with pepper spray. The club appeared to be shuttered when The Post visited Thursday.
Club Heat, another Bronx strip club that dispenses EBT cash, is also no stranger to violence. A 33-year-old woman was fatally shot in the head outside the club in December 2011.
Critics blasted the government for turning a blind eye to welfare’s sleazy money.
“This is morally scandalous,” said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “I have nothing against strip clubs, but that’s not what benefits are for. I don’t blame [recipients]. If you are poor, it’s a crummy life and you want to have a drink or see a naked woman. I blame the people who are in charge of this.”
Welfare recipients receive food stamps and cash assistance under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Both benefits are accessed through an EBT card, but only cash assistance — meant for housing, utilities and household necessities — can be accessed at ATMs.
A single-person household could receive a maximum $200 in monthly food stamps plus $158 in cash assistance. A family of four could get as much as $668 in food stamps and $433 in cash.
The food-stamp program prohibits the purchase of booze, tobacco and lottery tickets with an EBT card. But with the cash-assistance program, users can blow money on strippers or a six-pack and to tap welfare dollars from liquor stores, casinos and adult-oriented establishments.