DENVER —A bill intended to block ATM welfare withdrawals at strip bars, liquor stores, pot dispensaries and casinos, which was introduced after a series of Watchdog.org stories exposed thousands of tax dollars taken out at those locations, passed the Colorado Legislature last month and Gov. John Hickenlooper signed it Friday.
“The Watchdog group that monitors issues throughout the nation (revealed this) and as soon as one organization looked at this, others verified it,” he said.
House Bill 1255 allows the Colorado departments of Human Services and Revenue to write rules requiring businesses to block their ATMs from accepting welfare-benefit cards. The bill also requires regular reports to lawmakers about illegal withdrawals, which have been banned under state and federal law for years, but Watchdog.org found continued despite of lawmakers’ intent.
CDHS has opposed changes to welfare ATMs in the past but this year came on board after finding about $500,000 a year was withdrawn at locations prohibited by state and federal law — that’s about 1 percent of the total welfare withdrawals
“It’s unusual for me as a social worker to support limiting access for people struggling with poverty,” CDHS executive director Reggie Bicha told the committee in March. “Colorado needs a balanced way to deal with this.”
The bill passed the House in March, the Senate two weeks ago and was sent last week to Hickenlooper.