Rooting out Bridge Card abuse

LANSING—The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved a package of legislation aimed at curbing Bridge Card abuse in the state, said Sen. John Proos, who co-sponsored the bills.

“This reform package is about rooting out abuse and ensuring that state aid is used to help struggling families make ends meet in tough times,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Bridge Cards are designed to make it easier for Michigan families to feed their children and cover necessary expenses like clothing. Unfortunately, some recipients have been abusing the system to fund their personal vices. These reforms will put an end to fraudulent misuse of Michigan’s public assistance dollars.”

Senate Bills 434-436 and 554-556 would require the Michigan Department of Human Services to work with ATM service providers to develop and implement a program to block cash benefits at strip clubs, liquor stores and race tracks. It builds on legislation signed last year to ban Bridge Card cash withdrawals in casinos.

The legislation includes a provision to prohibit the use of a Bridge Card in a liquor store as part of the store’s liquor license. Under this change a liquor license would be revoked if a store that generates 50 percent or more of its sales from alcohol fails to comply with the policy.

“I co-sponsored these reforms to ensure this important aid goes to the Southwest Michigan families who truly need it and not toward alcohol and gambling,” Proos said. “This reform is also needed to protect taxpayer dollars and the state’s system. If we do not ensure that this abuse is stopped, we risk losing nearly $39 million a year in federal funds.”

New federal guidelines for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grants require improved oversight, including preventing public assistance from being used in liquor stores, gaming establishments or strip clubs. If no change is made, a penalty equal to up to 5 percent of the federal grants will be deducted beginning in 2014, which could cost Michigan $38.8 million.

The six-bill package has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.


Editor’s Note: Audio comments by Proos are available on the senator’s website at Click on “Podcasts.”