Burns votes to prevent welfare recipients from using benefits to buy tobacco

HARRISBURG, Sept. 19 – Continuing his efforts to ensure that those on the public dole don't take advantage of the system, state Rep. Frank Burns today supported a bill that would prevent people on public assistance from using those benefits to buy tobacco or related products.

House Bill 847, which passed the House, would prevent the purchase of tobacco and tobacco-related products with Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT Access cards, which is the electronic delivery system used by the state to provide public assistance and supplemental nutrition benefits to those who qualify.

"One only needs to open a newspaper or website or watch the news to hear of another story where someone is abusing our welfare system," Burns said. "This isn't fair to the hardworking taxpayers of Pennsylvania."

State law already prohibits the purchase of alcohol and gambling with public benefits. Burns said this just adds to the list.

"When you have a dentist -- a licensed medical professional -- hiding the income from his dental practice in order to obtain more than $25,000 in SNAP benefits as he was charged with in June, prohibiting people from using their electronic Access card to buy their cigarettes may be just a drop in the bucket against those taking advantage of the system, but every step we take to crack down on fraud helps," Burns said. "I will continue to do everything I can to fight welfare fraud to ensure that taxpayers are not cheated."

Burns has been a longtime supporter of efforts to cut down on fraud. He has favored adding photos IDs to welfare benefits cards, requiring drug testing in order to receive assistance, enhancing income eligibility verifications procedures and requiring authentication of citizenship.

"I share my constituents' values on this matter, which is why I continue to support any measure that will make the welfare system as fraud-free as possible."

The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.