No cigarettes, booze or lottery tickets on state Bridge cards, Michigan House decides

Michigan Bridge cards soon may no longer be used to buy alcohol, tobacco products, lottery tickets, or to retrieve cash from ATM machines near casinos, if the Senate follows this morning’s action by the Michigan House of Representatives to restrict the uses of the cards.Three bills restricting Bridge card use passed the House this morning, and more may follow in coming weeks, said Ari Adler, press secretary for House Speaker Jase Bolger, a Republican from Marshall whose 63rd District includes eastern Kalamazoo County.

No cigarettes

No cigarettes

Among other restrictions approved this morning include cutting off Bridge card holders with outstanding warrants. Also, another bill includes provisions for sharing of information between Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Human Services.

Another bill requires DHS to review incarceration records every month and deactivate Bridge cards for anyone in jail, action designed to prevent prisoners from passing cards to others to use, Adler said.

Other restrictions under consideration for future action include limiting the number of times lost cards can be replaced at no cost

“Michigan is one of the only states where a person can move here in the morning and apply for assistance in the afternoon,” Adler said. “It really is about protecting this program for people in need. In order to do that, we need to assure there is no fraud or abuse going on in the system.”

Bridge cards are used like debit cards to retrieve a variety of assistance, said DHS spokeswoman Christina Fecher. The food assistance portion, the former food stamps program, can only be used to purchase food, in compliance with federal guidelines. But cash assistance can be used to in the same ways cash can, and accessed by the Bridge card, she said.

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