My October 22, 2014 "EBT Explained" Letter

additional commentary by Rep. Timothy Horrigan; October 24, 2014

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On Sunday, October 12, 2014, I fired off the following Letter to the Editor of my local newspaper, the Dover (NH) Foster's Daily Democrat. The paper ran it a week and half later on Wednesday, November 22, 2014. It dealt with a subject near and dear to everyone's hearts, EBT cards.

Original URL:

EBT explained

To the editor:

Joe Macoul of Newmarket wrote in his Oct. 11 Letter to the Editor that he was "appalled to find out" that State Senator Martha Fuller Clark "thinks it's acceptable for those with EBT cards to be able to use them to purchase alcohol in bars and night clubs."

EBT stands for "Electronic Benefits Transfer" and the card looks just like what it is: an ordinary debit card. The EBT card is used to access two types of benefits. Firstly, benefits from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program can be used only to buy food. Secondly, if you receive certain cash benefits, but you do not have a bank account, you can use your EBT card to access those funds. Those cash benefits programs (Temporary Aid to Needy Families, Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled, and two smaller programs for the blind and elderly) provide very small cash stipends to people who are raising children and/or are so severely disabled as to be unemployable. Those cash benefits can, like any other cash, be used to buy anything you need to buy. There are about 13,000 recipients statewide who collectively get about $63 million in cash assistance.

Sen. Fuller Clark voted on two bills related to EBT cards during the past two years, neither of which fit Mr. Macoul's description: HB 2 and SB 203.

The "budget trailer bill" HB2 was 75 pages long. It proposed various legislative changes needed to implement HB 1, the actual budget bill. The Republican majority on the Senate Finance Committee proposed certain restrictions on where EBT cards can be used, to bring state law in line with federal law. Rep. Fuller Clark joined her fellow Democrats in a 13-11 party-line vote against the Senate version of HB 2, based on the entire 75-page bill.

The section about EBT cards survived the joint House-Senate conference committee process. The conference committee's compromise budget bills passed the Senate unanimously and with just a few dissenting votes in the House. It continued to be legal to use your EBT card at restaurants with liquor licenses, although you could no longer use it at liquor stores.

SB 203 would have prohibited cash benefits from being used to buy certain goods and services, including alcoholic beverages, no matter where they were being purchased. This was a "feel good" bill which proposed something which sounds nice in theory but which was legally and technically unworkable. Moreover, SB 203 made no provision for additional funding for the already overworked state agency which administers the EBT card program. Sen. Fuller Clark was one of the three votes on the losing side of a 20-3 Senate vote. The House subsequently voted to send SB 203 and a similar House bill (HB 1213)) to Interim Study. After several hearings over the course of the summer of 2014, a bipartisan Interim Study subcommittee rejected the approach taken by SB 203, while also suggesting tighter restrictions on where the cards can be used, along with more consistent enforcement of existing rules.

State Rep. Timothy Horrigan


(a woman using an EBT card at a store in Oregon.)

And here is the letter I was disagreeing with. The writer is a supporter of Sen. Fuller Clark's opponent, Newmarket town councilor Phil Nazzaro:

Original URL:

Out of touch

To the editor: There's no doubt that the vast majority of us all work hard for our money and pay our taxes. Here in Seacoast New Hampshire, District 21 (Portsmouth, Newington, Newmarket, Newfields, Madbury, Durham, and Lee), I was appalled to find out what our state senator had done. Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D) voted to allow our tax dollars that fund EBT cards to be used in bars to buy alcohol. That's right; the senator thinks it's acceptable for those with EBT cards to be able to use them to purchase alcohol in bars and night clubs. The EBT program is to help those struggling put food on the table, not to go out on the town. Senator Martha Fuller Clark is out of touch. I hope you will stand with me on November 4th and tell Senator Martha Fuller Clark: "You're fired".

We need a leader who will represent and do what's best for Seacoast NH. Phil Nazzaro (R) is that man! Please vote for Phil Nazzaro for N.H. State Senate.

Phil is a 23-year resident of New Hampshire, a 1993 graduate of Oyster River High School in Durham, and a 12 year resident of Newmarket, NH. He is a 1998 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a BS in American History and served for 10 years, including a tour as a detachment commander forward deployed in Afghanistan in 2003. Since leaving the military Phil has built a career in adult learning with a specific focus in the education sector. Since 2011, he has worked as a Senior Managing Director of Learning and Development for Teach for America, a national education nonprofit aims to help bring about the day that all children in this nation will have the opportunity for an excellent education. Phil holds several advanced degrees including a MS in Education, a MA in Psychology, and a PhD in Psychology.

Joe Macoul


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