The EBT bill

An e-mail and Facebook posting has been making the rounds in the last week suggesting that the Minnesota Legislature is considering making it a crime for anyone on welfare to have more than $20 in their possession. It goes like this:

The mean-spirited assault on the poor in this country, by Republicans, has taken an even more odious turn in Minnesota. Republicans in the state House of Representatives are sponsoring a bill that would penalize welfare recipients for having more than $20 in their possession. So-called “cash” welfare assistance would only be distributed through state-issued debit cards, and cash withdrawals would be limited to just $20 per month. And just in case the dirty poor think they can walk into any supermarket where the rest of us shop, they should think again. To further stigmatize the poor and make their lives more miserable, the bill would limit the use of the EBT card to a few authorized retailers equipped with a special poor people’s terminal. And if they have to travel out of state, they better hold on to their $20 monthly cash stipend, because the EBT card can only be used in the state of Minnesota. Take that you poors!

What’s this all about? There’s no bill at the Legislature preventing anyone from having more than $20 “in their possession.” HF171 (available here), however, does prevent the users of EBT cards to use them to purchase tobacco or alcohol products. It also prevents recipients from using the cards to get more than $20 in cash per month at an ATM.

It’s true, however, that the bill cuts cash assistance. Here are the current rules for using EBT cards in Minnesota — for food and cash accounts. Users are allowed four free cash withdrawals per month, then pay $1 service charge for each withdrawal.