California Welfare Recipients Withdraw $12,000 From Strip Club ATMs

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Strip clubs are known for doling out risque entertainment -- but welfare benefits?

That has been the case in California, where more than $12,000 in welfare cash was dispensed from strip club ATMs from 2007 to 2009 as part of the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the Los Angeles Times reported. It turns out that those needy families weren't prohibited from using their state-issued ATM cards there, and some took advantage.

The report comes on the heals of an earlier Times report on $4.8 million in welfare cash withdrawn since 2007 from ATMs at casinos and poker rooms. But the days of access to welfare benefits at casinos and strip clubs likely are numbered.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered the department overseeing the program to remove casino and strip club ATMs from the list of permitted welfare disbursement sites.

"We'll take a wide-ranging look and apply some common sense to the list of outlets where cash assistance should not be withdrawn," Department of Social Services spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez wrote in an e-mail to The Times, announcing that her department had "taken steps to deactivate ATMs in adult entertainment clubs."

Strip clubs say they have no way of telling that welfare benefits can be accessed from their ATMs. Managers say most machines are provided by third parties.

After the Times' report a week ago on the casino cash, Schwarzenegger directed the Department of Social Services to produce a plan to reduce "waste, fraud and abuse" in the welfare program.

Schwarzenegger has proposed scrapping the CalWorks program under which the ATM cards are issued, but advocates for the poor warn against further reducing the state's social safety net, even if it means withdrawing cash at gambling establishments.

"Casinos in some rural places have become like little hubs of the community," Michael Herald, a lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, told the Times.

Click here for more on this story from the Los Angeles Times.