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Our Opinion: Closing the door on welfare abuse

The abuse of welfare benefits isn’t good for anyone.

Ours is a compassionate society that helps people in need not only through private, charitable contributions, but through public assistance.

When abusers spend welfare aid to buy alcohol or visit strip clubs, taxpayers justifiably are angry. And if and when they retaliate by restricting welfare spending, the truly needy suffer.

They become, in reality, victims of the abusers.

Two state senators are supporting legislation targeting abuse of welfare benefits.

Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, and Sen. Maria Chapelle-Nadal, D-University City, have joined to promote legislation that would prohibit welfare recipients from spending electronic benefits at liquor stores, casinos and adult entertainment businesses.

The state law would also serve another purpose by avoiding a 5 percent cut in federal funding distributed through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Benefits program.

Regular readers of this forum are aware of our aversion to jumping through federal hoops. In this case, the state law is sensible, regardless of federal threats and/or enticements.

The Senate bill contains provisions beyond the scope of federal compliance. Also prohibited would be spending electronic welfare benefits on lottery tickets or at amusement parks, athletic events, zoos and museums.

We encourage studying and perhaps tweaking the ban on zoos and museums. Both are learning environments that frequently are supported by public funding.

Proponents of the legislation admit it will not eliminate welfare fraud. Under the existing system, electronic welfare benefits can be converted into cash and spent inappropriately.

The law, however, is a useful step in developing a system that channels public assistance only to those in need.

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