FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) -- Lawmakers in the Kentucky House passed a bill designed to provide public assistance reforms and make the transition from welfare to work easier. The bill passed 58-32.
Representative David Meade of Stanford, who sponsors House Bill 1, said it will cut down on fraud or abuse and put all benefits on the same card. Opponents said it could hurt the poor or those with disabilities.
If made law, the bill will prevent cash withdrawals from an EBT card. It would also expand SNAP benefits and set up provisions so people would not lose health insurance benefits when transitioning into the workforce. It's called a bridge insurance plan to get past 130 percent of the federal poverty level.
There are some penalties included for selling benefit cards.
"If you misuse the cash benefits that are given to you, then you will have a penalty of one month for first offense, penalty of three months for second and then you could potentially lose those benefits," said Rep. Meade.
Opponents, however, said the penalties for misuse of cards are too harsh.
"But when you are talking about the people in my district who are poor, less healthy and less educated, and more addicted, than more than the rest of this state or nation, this bill is not going to help," said Rep. Angie Hatton (D-Whitesburg).
Rep. Meade said children would be exempt from losing benefits.
The bill had numerous floor amendments added, most of which were defeated.
Governor Andy Beshear said he is still reviewing the bill but says he does not believe in a system that pushes people off benefits.