State officials cancel access to welfare benefits on cruise ships and at all casinos


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California officials are cutting off use of state-issued welfare debit cards at casinos across the country and on cruise ships, in the wake of Times reports that the aid cards have been used to spend or withdraw millions of dollars in benefits at popular vacation spots including the Las Vegas strip and on ships sailing from ports around the world.

More than $69 million meant to help the needy pay their rent and clothe their children was accessed in all 49 other states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, according to data obtained by The Times from the California Department of Social Services.


The department instructed the vendor that administers the debit card program to make the changes Monday afternoon, in response to a report in The Times’ Monday edition.

Department of Social Services Director John Wagner said the move is part of the Schwarzenegger administration’s commitment to ‘rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in these programs’ and ‘to ensure these resources are going to the people they are intended for.’

In June, the state cut off access to benefits in California casinos and strip clubs after The Times reported that the Electronic Benefits Transfer cards worked in those businesses too.

-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento