Restrictions on Use of Public Assistance Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards

12/12/2019

AAn older adult holding the hand of a younger childt least 37 states issue Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

Generally speaking, the EBT cards are used to distribute welfare cash benefits function like any other debit card.

They can be used at any retail establishment that accepts debit cards and can withdraw cash. More recently, states have been curtailing the use of the cards and expressly prohibiting their use in certain locations, mostly casinos, liquor stores or other gaming establishments.

In 2012, the federal government mandated restrictions be put in place to prohibit EBT card use in liquor stores, gaming or gambling establishments or adult entertainment venues. States can face financial penalties if they are not in compliance. All states issue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) formerly known as food stamps, through EBT cards. SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase food items and cannot be used to withdraw cash.

At least 25 states have laws placing restrictions or prohibitions on the use of EBT cards. The table below lists the states and their prohibitions by topic (not all states prohibit the same purchases or specify the same products or services). The Texas statute does not specifically prohibit certain purchases but requires that benefits only be used for goods and services necessary for the welfare of the family, such as food, clothing, housing, utilities, child care, transportation and medicine/medical supplies. In addition, Massachusetts and Missouri require that the EBT card include the person’s photo.

It is important to note that the federal mandate does not require that the policy be put in state law. It can be incorporated into the state’s TANF plan or administrative rules and program policies.  For example, Connecticut and Rhode Island have their restrictions in the TANF plan and Program Rule.

NCSL has additional information on the federal mandate. New EBT Mandate in Extension of TANF Block Grant Through FY 2012; State Penalty Risk for Non-Compliance.

The box allows you to conduct a full text search or type the state name.
EBT Card Restrictions for Public Assistance*
State
Citation/Bill
Alcohol Tobacco Gambling Lottery Tickets Guns Adult Venues Program included and other notes Penalties Enforcement

Alabama
2014 SB 116, Chap 2014-419

x

x

x

x

 

x

Cash recipient of public assistance may not withdraw or use for alcohol, casino, tattoo or body piercing, psychic services, adult entertainment

1st violation: 1 month disqualification
2nd violation: 3 month disqualification
3rd or subsequent violation: permanent disqualification
If permanently disqualified, the child may still receive benefits through a representative payee

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 5-601.02

 

   

x

     

All EBT cards: prohibits gaming facilities from having ATMs that accept EBT cards

 

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 46-297

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 46-297.01

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 5-116

x

 

x

x  

x

All EBT cards: prohibits purchases at liquor stores, dog or horse racing facilities, casinos, and adult entertainment businesses. Cannot purchase lottery tickets. Also prohibits these businesses from having ATMs that accept EBT cards

Businesses found in violation are subject to licensing action

California
Executive Order (EO) S-09-10
Fraud: Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 10980

 

 

x

 

 

x

TANF: cannot withdraw at gambling establishments or adult entertainment facilities

(However, Cal Wel & Inst Code § 10501 states: No person concerned with the administration of a public assistance program shall dictate how any recipient shall expend the aid granted to him.)

Fraud penalties depend on amount; punishable by fines and/or prison time.

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 26-2-104

SNAP Fraud: Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 26-2-305

x

 

x

 

x

(Eff. 1/1/2020)

 TANF

SNAP fraud penalties depend on type of fraud; can include disqualification from the program, fines and/or imprisonment

Florida

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 402.82

x

 

x

 

 

x

Prohibits EBT cards from being accepted at liquor stores, adult entertainment facilities, pari-mutuel facility or gaming/casinos

The Department shall establish enforcement procedures

Idaho

Idaho Code Ann. § 56-227F

x

x

x

x

 

x

TANF

misdemeanor for recipient and may result in forfeiture of benefits; cost to disable ATM to business but no penalty specified

Indiana

Ind. Code Ann. § 12-13-14-4.5

x

 

x

 

x

x

TANF: requires certain businesses to post signs at ATM indicating cannot be used to withdraw cash assistance, includes horse racing, and other gaming facilities, riverboats, gun stores and adult entertainment

Individual who attempts to access benefits commits a Class C misdemeanor

Iowa

Iowa Code Ann. § 239B.5

x

 

x

 

 

x

Prohibits use in any liquor store; casino, gambling casino, gaming establishment; adult-oriented entertainment establishments

No penalties specified

Kansas
Kan. Stat. Ann. § 39-709

x

x

x

x

 

x

TANF: no cash assistance to purchase alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco, lottery tickets, concert tickets, sporting events, entertainment, sexually oriented adult materials, or used in any liquor store, casino, jewelry store, tattoo, massage, or body piercing parlor, spa, nail salon, lingerie shop, tobacco paraphernalia store, vapor cigarette store, psychic or fortune teller, bail bond company, video arcade, movie theater, swimming pool, cruise ship, theme park, racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented business or establishment where minors are not permitted. Limits cash  withdrawals to $25 per transaction, per day. No out of state purchases. *photo ID if participant agrees

Not specified

Louisiana

La. Stat. Ann. § 26:911

x

x

x

 

2014 law included TANF and Kinship Care Subsidy Program and expanded list of prohibited places and items that can be purchased, including amusement parks, tattoo or body piercing, and permanent makeup. 2012 law was for and permanent makeup. 2012 law was for SNAP: cannot be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco

Recipient will face case closure of 12 months for 1st violation; 24 months for 2nd; and permanent case closure for third violation.


Retailer or business establishment can be fined $500 for 1st violation; $1,000 for 2nd; $2,500 for third and subsequent.

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, § 23

Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 17-A, § 905-C

x

 

x

 

 

x

All EBT programs, including TANF, GA, SNAP, WIC, child care subsidies

Class D crime

Maryland

Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 9-1A-24

 

 

x

x

 

 

Prohibits video lottery licensee operators from allowing ATMs to accept debit cards issued for the purpose of TANF cash assistance

not specified

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 18, § 5I

x

x

x

x

x

TANF: prohibits purchase, includes tattoo parlors, manicure shops, rent-to-own stores, jewelry stores and cruise ships;  2011 HB 3773 Ch. No. 219-2011 required a study of issues of restricting purchases, out-of-state use, limiting amount of withdrawals, 2012 HB 4237 requires study of cashless payment system

2013 HB 3556 requires photo ID

(c) Any eligible recipient of direct cash assistance who knowingly makes a prohibited purchase in violation of this section shall reimburse the department for such purchase and, for the second offense, shall be disqualified from the direct cash assistance program for a period of 2 months and, for the third offense, shall be disqualified from the direct cash assistance program permanently; provided, however, that the department shall only disqualify an eligible recipient after notice and a hearing pursuant to section 30A.
individual or store owner who knowingly accepts electronic benefit transfer cards in violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not m`ore than $500 for the first offense, a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $2,500 for the second offense and a fine of not less than $2,500 for the third or subsequent offense

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 400.57v

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 487.14110

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 487.3436

x

 

x

 

 

x

Banks with ATMs in these locations must ensure that ATMS do not allow individuals to access cash benefits from a Michigan Bridge card

Not specified (Penalties based on number of instances of noncompliance. Third instance can be permanently ineligible) 400.57g

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. § 256.987

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.821

x

x

 

 

 

 

TANF: prohibits purchase

Any person found to be guilty of purchasing tobacco products or alcoholic beverages with their EBT debit card is disqualified from assistance

Missouri

Mo. Ann. Stat. § 208.024

Photo ID: Mo. Ann. Stat. § 208.022

 x

 

TANF and SNAP: prohibits purchase or use in liquor stores, tobacco, lottery tickets, casinos, gambling establishments or adult entertainment establishments. Also requires photo ID

 An eligible recipient of TANF assistance who makes a purchase in violation of shall reimburse the department
An individual, store owner or proprietor of an establishment who knowingly accepts EBT cards in violation punishable by fine of up to $500 for 1st offense, up to $1000 for 2nd offense, and more than $1000 for 3rd offense.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 167:7-b

x

x

x

 

 

x

TANF: prohibit using cash or EBT card at these locations

Individual - Suspension of cash assistance benefits for that person for 2 pay periods for the first offense.
(b) Suspension of cash assistance benefits for that person for 4 pay periods for the second offense.
(c) Suspension of cash assistance benefits for that person for 6 pay periods for the third and subsequent offense.
Business - The licensing authority may take reasonable action as deemed appropriate under existing licensing provisions.

New York

N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 151

x

 

x

 

 

x

Prohibits ATMs at gaming establishments from accepting public assistance EBT cards

McKinney's Social Services Law § 147 Whoever knowingly uses, transfers, acquires, alters, purchases, transports or possesses food stamps, food stamp program coupons, authorization cards or electronic access devices which entitle a person to obtain food stamps, in any manner not authorized by section 95 of this chapter shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor except that if the value of the benefit  is greater than $1000, class E felony; if more than $3,000 class D felony; and if over $50,000 class C felony.

Oklahoma

56 Okl. St. Ann. § 241.4

x

x

x

 

 

x

TANF: no debit or EBT cards can be used at liquor stores, casinos/gaming establishments, adult entertainment facilities or retail whose primary business is tobacco products

1st violation, reduce TANF grant by 25 percent for 3 months; 2nd violation reduce grant by 35 percent for six months; 50 percent reduction for 12 months for third and subsequent violations.

Pennsylvania

62 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 483-484

x

x

x

 

 

x

TANF: prohibits purchase

Guilty of misdemeanor and fine up to $100 or up to 6 months in prison or both

Tennessee

Tenn. Code Ann. § 71-3-126

x

x

x

 

 

x

TANF: no persons shall use debit or EBT cards to purchase goods or use ATMs at liquor stores, casinos/gaming establishments, adult entertainment facilities or retail stores that derive largest category of sales from the sale of loose tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, pipes, and other smoking accessories

Any person who knowingly violates this subsection (d) shall reimburse the department for the amount withdrawn and used subject to any prohibition in federal law. Upon a third or subsequent violation, if permitted by federal law, the person shall be permanently disqualified from receiving public assistance benefits by means of direct cash payment or an electronic benefits transfer access card.
 

Any person or business entity who knowingly violates shall be subject fined $1,000 for the first violation, $2,500 for the second violation within five (5) years, $5,000 for a third or a subsequent violation within five years.

Texas

Texas Admin Code § 372.1701-1702 (retailer provisions)

Texas Human Resources Code §31.0355(a) – only essential goods and services

Regulation: Texas Admin Code § 372.1509

 

         

Texas statute specifies that benefits only used for goods and services necessary for the welfare of the family, such as food, clothing, housing, utilities, child care, transportation and medicine/medical supplies. Regulation: must use the money to purchase goods and services necessary and essential to the welfare of the children, such as food, clothing, housing, furniture, transportation, laundry, medical supplies, household supplies, and recreation

 

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 35A-3-302

x

 

x

 

 

x

TANF (Family Employment Program): no persons shall use EBT cards to purchase goods or use ATMs at liquor stores, casinos/gaming establishments, adult entertainment facilities

Department shall makes rules and enforcement provisions may include temporarily or permanently disqualifying from assistance

Virginia

Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-621

Penalty: Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-523

x

x

x

x

 

x

TANF: recipients shall not use EBT cards to purchase alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, sexually explicit materials or use EBT cards in pari-mutuel wagering or charitable gaming facilities, tattoo or body-piercing establishments or adult entertainment facilities

Unauthorized use of food stamps, EBT or energy assistance is guilty of larceny

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 74.08.580

Penalties:

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§66.24.013,

18.185.056, 9.46.410, and 18.300.095

x

x

x

x

 

x

TANF: includes tattoo parlors, body piercing or body art, bail bonds. No withdrawal at taverns, nightclubs, liquor stores and any location where those under 18 not allowed

1st violation, fine up to $25; 2nd violation fine $50;  The department shall notify, in writing, all recipients of electronic benefit cards that any violation could result in legal proceedings and forfeiture of all cash public assistance.

*Note: This document only captures those states that have addressed this issue legislatively. The Federal mandate to restrict use in liquor stores, casinos/gaming establishments and adult entertainment venues does not require the policy to be in state statute, but can be in the state’s TANF plan and/or rules/policies. For example, Connecticut and Rhode Island have their restrictions in the TANF plan and Program Rule.

Additional Resources