Should the use of cash welfare benefits for tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs be banned?

Some New York lawmakers are pushing to prohibit using cash welfare benefits to pay for tobacco, alcohol, strip clubs and illegal drugs.

Senate Republicans behind the bill say the state must act before February or lose $125 million in federal aid.

Republican Sen. Thomas Libous says Tuesday the bill will make such spending illegal in New York for the first time.

He says retail store receipts show social services debit cards have been used for the purchases and police reports have shown the cash was used in drug deals.

Republicans speculate the abuse could be widespread, pointing to $4 million a month in cash withdrawals made from automatic teller machines between midnight and 6 a.m.

Lawmakers are talking with banks about ways to block some purchases from social services debit cards but acknowledge that ATM withdrawls would be nearly impossible to monitor.

Many people support restrictions on what can be bought with welfare benefits. Tyrone Dexter of Syracuse said that if you receive benefits, you should accept that there will be stipulations.

"It's government issued food stamps so the government can choose whichever way it decides to go," said Dexter.

George McCarthy from Syracuse has needed social services benefits during tough times. He is skeptical that the law would stop people who abuse the system now and he's worried about what it will cost people who genuinely need help.

"I want to be treated the way I treat somebody else. and nowadays - people don't care," said McCarthy.

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