AUGUSTA — Continuing its efforts to block the use of welfare benefits on prohibited products or services, Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration announced Monday that it has blocked the use of state-issued electronic benefit transfer cards at 44 ATM locations across Maine.

Examples of ATMs in strip joints, liquor stores, night clubs and bars were among the locations the state detailed Monday.

In all, ATMs at nine liquor stores, including three Roopers locations in Lewiston and Auburn, are among those where EBT cards will no longer work.

Also on the list of ATMs now disabled for EBT cards were those at four Lewiston and Auburn social clubs, including Le Club Pass-Temp, the Carlton Club, 20M Social Club and the New Auburn Social Club. The ATM at one Lewiston bar, The Cage, was also on the list provided by the state Monday.

In all, EBT cards will be disabled at more than 200 ATMs in Maine, according to LePage.

Steve Roop, the owner of the Roopers locations, said he wasn’t troubled by the news.

“The state’s got to do what they’ve got to do. I’m all good with it,” Roop said Monday.

In late January the state amended its contract with Xerox, the vendor that processes EBT card transactions. That amendment requires Xerox to disable the cards at 206 ATM locations and also requires Xerox to report on its progress.

Under the agreement, the state will pay Xerox $18,750 for the first 206 locations and then $91 per location for any additional ATMs.

Recipients of state and federally funded Temporary Assistance to Needy Families can withdraw the benefit as cash at an ATM, much like a debit or credit card holder can do by punching in a PIN or personal identification number.

TANF benefits are loaded onto about 8,000 of the nearly 224,000 state-issued EBT cards. The vast majority of EBT cards are loaded with federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps. Benefit recipients can only use SNAP funds for the purchase of food and cannot withdraw the benefit as cash.

“This initiative is designed to protect public funds by blocking inappropriate and illegal use of state and federal welfare benefits,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “This is not about politics — it’s about making sure that each public dollar spent on welfare is used appropriately.”

LePage has made a point of cracking down on welfare fraud and abuse in recent months, noting the taxpayer-funded benefits are meant to help children and families survive.

“To think these dollars may have been spent on liquor and adult entertainment is incomprehensible, and this administration will not tolerate it,” LePage said.

Also in January, LePage’s administration released a list of more than 3,046 ATM transactions made with EBT cards at locations it deemed questionable. Among those transactions were 16 at Portland and Bangor strip club ATMs, which will no longer work with a state EBT card.

But on Monday some questioned LePage’s recent push to prevent fraud and abuse in the system, noting a 2012 law change gave the administration the power to stop EBT transactions at questionable locations.

“The governor says this was a priority, yet he has waited two years to begin implementing the law — right in time for the election,” Jodi Quintero, a spokeswoman for Maine’s Democratic Speaker of the House Mark Eves, wrote in a message to reporters.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said blocking the cards would also help protect cardholders.

“By ensuring the card will not work at ATMs in prohibited locations, the cardholder will be unable to initiate a transaction that otherwise would be considered a misuse of their public benefit,” Mayhew said in a prepared statement. “We want to make sure people are aware they can’t use their EBT cards in these locations, but we also want to make sure it isn’t even an option by shutting these locations down from EBT usage altogether.”

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Locations where Maine deactivated ATMs

Locations of local ATMS where EBT card use deactivated:

New Auburn Social Club, 7 Second St., Auburn

Roopers, 545 Minot Ave., Auburn

20M Social Club, 195 Lincoln St., Lewiston

The Cage, Inc. The, 97-99 Ash St., Lewiston

Carlton Club, 25 Sabattus St., Lewiston

Discount Smoke, 510 Sabattus St., Lewiston

Le Club Passe, 45 Cedar St., Lewiston

Roopers-Lisbon St., 1400 Lisbon St., Lewiston

Roopers-Sabattus St., 794 Sabattus St., Lewiston

Statewide map of 44 ATMs where EBT cards can not be used


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