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Bill Would Block Bridge Cards At Strip Clubs, Liquor Stores

LANSING (WWJ) - Are Michigan welfare recipients using state funds to pay for strippers? One lawmaker says it's a problem.

Senator Rick Jones will propose legislation that aims to make sure Bridge Cards aren't used to withdraw cash at strip clubs or liquor stores.

Jones told WWJ Newsradio 950's Zahra Huber it's outrageous that people would spend that money on alcohol or strippers, instead of the basic necessities.

"My family takes in foster children. A number of them have been food-deprived because their parents use their Bridge Cards to obtain drugs and alcohol," Jones said. "I am shocked that anybody would take the cash portion that is meant to provide for children and use it in strip clubs and to buy booze."

Jones, who will introduce the bill in about a month, said if Michigan doesn't act on this legislation -- there could be consequences.

"If we do not comply with a federal law by 2014, we could be fined five percent of our TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families federal] grant money, and that means we could lose $40,000 to provide for the poor," he said.

Jones said the proposed bill is a natural followup to a law now in place that prevents cash withdrawals inside casinos. He said, last year,he discovered that one Michigan casino took in $87,000  from Bridge Cards.

Jones said he realizes that, even if the new proposal becomes law, there would be no way to guarantee welfare cash assistance isn't used at strip clubs or liquor stores – just as there is no way to guarantee welfare cash isn't used at casinos. Cash could still be withdrawn other ATMs and then  spent inside those locations.

However, Jones said, making the process more difficult would likely lead to less abuse.

Monthly food assistance in Michigan is based on income, how many people are in their household and other criteria. Funds are made available on a Michigan Bridge Card, which like a debit card is swiped through electronic reader when buying groceries.

Roughly 1.9 million Michigan residents – nearly 20 percent of the state's population – are covered by the program.

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