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11Alive Viewer makes a difference on tax dollar waste | News

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11Alive Viewer makes a difference on tax dollar waste
News

SMYRNA, Ga. -- Our 11Alive viewers are making a difference with their tips to our Waste Watchers. We received an email from Guyiena Jones at thewasteline@11Alive.com that has resulted in change!

WASTE WATCHERS | Keeping goverment accountable

All week long we've been showing you how your taxpayer dollars, meant for needy families, are being misused at liquor stores, tobacco shops and strip clubs.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is supposed to help families pay for food, clothing and shelter for children. Cash benefits are put on Electronic Beneift Transfer (EBT) cards, which work like debit or ATM cards.

Grocery store worker Amber Lumpkin said for years, she's seen customers use their EBT cards to buy items like Bud Light.

"I was pretty mad," she said. "I've seen people who need money and can't get it."

When 11Alive viewer Guyiena Jones tipped us off to a Smyrna shop that advertised using EBT card for cash, beer and cigarettes, our Center for Investigative Action's Ross McLaughlin got right on it!

He talked to the workers at the store who took the sign down and tracked down the man who was in charge of making the sign. The man behind the sign agreed that EBT money should not be used for beer and cigarettes, and even though he wasn't doing anything illegal, he redesigned it.

There are tight controls over how food stamp money can be spent but little control over TANF cash benefits on EBT cards.

Governor Nathan Deal spoke to 11Alive this week about how he wants to introduce new legislation to make businesses more accountable. However, since the money comes from the federal government and the state just administers it, Deal says Georgia must get approval from the feds being implementing any new restrictions. 

The findings upset Melissa Hines, a single mom who relies on EBT cards to help her care for her son while she finishes her GED.

"It's upsetting because single moms -- I know they really need it, and we're getting turned down for it for other people who've been using drugs and liquor," she said. " It shouldn't be for them."

Hines used to receive $235 a month. She recently had her benefits cut off, but said she isn't surprised to hear about the abuse.

"I hope that I can keep doing what I'm doing -- finishing school, get me a good job so I can be able to support myself instead of depending on the government," she said.

RELATED | Full investigation into EBT cards misuse

Contact the 11Alive Waste Watchers if you know of any government waste.

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