Gov. stepped in after assembly failed to pass bill
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Governor Andrew Cuomo are on opposite sides of the political fence, but the Republican-Conservative Bay Ridge lawmaker is lauding the Democratic governor for taking steps to crack down on welfare fraud.
If the governor didn’t act, New York State would have been in danger of losing $120 million in federal funding, Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said.
Cuomo and the state’s Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA) took administrative action to enact policy changes to ban welfare recipients from using public assistance funds at strip clubs, liquor stores and casinos.
The State Senate had passed a bill, called the Public Assistance Integrity Act, that would have banned the practice, but the State Assembly failed to pass the proposed legislation, Malliotakis said.
New York State needed to enact the changes and submit a compliance report to the US Department of Health and Human Services to demonstrate compliance or risk losing up to $120 million in federal funding.
The deadline for compliance was Feb. 22.
“I thank Governor Cuomo and the State Senate for their commitment to these reforms and their efforts to meet the Feb. 22 deadline,” Malliotakis said.
Malliotakis also took a swipe at the Assembly’s leadership for not passing the legislation.
“It is inexcusable that the Assembly's leadership failed to act on this reform. This not only was a mandate from the federal government but a common sense step to protect tax dollars from being used in bars, strip clubs and casinos. It’s important that we provide the temporary assistance those receiving welfare benefits need, but when these programs are abused it ends up costing everyone,” she said.
To enact his plan, the governor worked with the New York State Gaming Commission to block the use of EBT cards at ATMs at OTB parlors and at ATMs and point-of-sale terminals in video lottery facilities. Cuomo also worked with the New York State Liquor Authority to get liquor stores to voluntarily comply with federal prohibitions.
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) co-sponsored the senate bill.
“For too long, people have abused the welfare system to make unnecessary and frivolous purchases at the expense of not only the taxpayer, but those who rely on these programs to support their families,” Golden said.
The bill would have imposed a ban on welfare recipients using their EBT cards to purchase cigarettes, liquor or New York State Lottery tickets.
The bill was approved by the senate by a vote of 53-4 earlier this month.
“There is no reasonable justification for allowing people to purchase liquor, cigarettes, or use these funds at casinos. The purpose of this program is to help those in need provide food, clothing, and other necessities to live,” Golden said.