LePage Administration Begins Blocking EBT Use at ATMs in Liquor Stores, Strip Clubs and Bars

May 12, 2014

For Immediate Release: Monday, May 12
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage today announced that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has started blocking EBT cards from being used in ATM’s at prohibited locations. It is illegal to use the EBT card, which is used to access taxpayer-funded welfare money, in certain locations as a result of legislation signed by Governor LePage in 2012.

In May of 2012, Governor LePage signed into law “An Act to Strengthen the State’s Ability To Investigate and Prosecute Misuse of Public Benefits.” This law mandates that an EBT card may not be used in “a retail establishment where 50 percent or more of the gross revenue of the establishment is derived from the sale of liquor; a gambling facility, except that use of the electronic benefits transfer system is permitted in any portion of the premises of a gambling facility that is set aside separately for the sale primarily of staple foods; or a retail establishment that provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment.”

DHHS has already blocked EBT card use in 44 ATMs around the state. The Department is blocking of as many of these ATMs as possible and anticipates that more than 200 locations will be blocked by August. By law, if an individual uses an EBT card at a prohibited location, it is considered an intentional program violation and results in removal of that individual from the program for one year. A second violation results in a two-year suspension. If there is a third violation, the individual will be permanently disqualified from the program.

Some of the locations that have already been blocked include:

• PT’s Showclub, Portland • Diamond’s Gentlemen’s Club, Bangor • Styxx, Portland • Bayside Liquors, Bar Harbor • Foreplay Sports Pub, Portland • Joka’s Discount Beverage, Waterville

“This initiative is designed to protect public funds by blocking inappropriate and illegal use of state and federal welfare benefits,” said Governor LePage. “This is not about politics – it’s about making sure that each public dollar spent on welfare is used appropriately. These tax dollars are designated for daily necessities like diapers and healthy meals that vulnerable families and children need to survive. To think these dollars may have been spent on liquor and adult entertainment is incomprehensible, and this administration will not tolerate it.”

“Democrats have said that welfare fraud is a ‘victimless crime,’ and they rejected four of my bills to enact common-sense welfare reform,” said the Governor. “It is inexcusable that Democrats and my opponents ignored these reforms that so many Mainers demand.”

California and Massachusetts have also blocked the usage of EBT cards at illegal and questionable locations to ensure appropriate use of publicly funded welfare funds. Maine contacted California to discuss their program while creating this initiative.

“Another positive aspect of this initiative is that it will ultimately protect the cardholder,” said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew. “By ensuring the card will not work at ATMs in prohibited locations, the cardholder will be unable to initiate a transaction that otherwise would be considered a misuse of their public benefit. We want to make sure people are aware they can’t use their EBT cards in these locations, but we also want to make sure it isn’t even an option by shutting these locations down from EBT usage altogether.”

DHHS has a contract with the EBT vendor Xerox to process this work. Maine pays roughly $92 for each machine location that is blocked. This is similar to the work done by California and Massachusetts with the same vendor.