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Welfare debit cards at the strip clubs-will there be changes?

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Updated: 2/04/2013 11:41 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News uncovered taxpayer dollars being accessed at bars, gaming centers and strip clubs in Jacksonville.

The money comes from a Temporary Cash Assistance card.

It's a welfare debit card that can be used to get cash anywhere. The average card holds about $240 per month and is to be used for self-maintenance.

According to state records, over a 19 month period, TCA cards gave out $12 million in the River City.

The Department of Children and Families administers the cards, but it's up to lawmakers to keep a closer eye on where the money goes.

Last February, President Obama signed a bill requiring the states do a better job of making sure taxpayer dollars aren't spent in strip clubs, or gambling parlors.

We went to Tallahassee and learned lawmakers have yet to draft a measure to stop this problem, but DCF has.

Action News obtained a summary of the measure and it would deal specifically with TCA cards and where that money is accessed.

"We are thrilled that the federal government has finally allowed us to propose this legislation and we are hopeful that state lawmakers will support our effort to ensure that temporary federal benefits are used for their intended purposed," said Joe Follick, a spokesman for DCF.

"Any time anyone uses these benefits for anything other than their intended purpose, they are deceiving taxpayers and failing their families by not taking the necessary steps toward independence from government assistance that will allow them a brighter future," Follick added.

We spoke with Senator Audrey Gibson about the new proposal.

Although optimistic, Senator Gibson said, "The details are in the enforcement. If a vendor has an ATM in their establishment they will not, and are not statutorily required to, 'police' those machines. I would support the language but the devil is in the detail."

DCF is meeting with lawmakers in committee this week to discuss the bill. The hope is that a final draft will be ready in time for the next session which begins in March.

You can count on Action News to follow your money. We'll tell you the moment legislation is signed.

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