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Can you buy alcohol and tobacco with an EBT?

The question is not as simple as it seems.

As stated, the answer is no.  Purchasing alcohol and tobacco products is specifically prohibited under theSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known by its acronym –  SNAP.

However, it appears to be possible to make use of an Electronic Benefits Transfer  card to buy items specifically prohibited from being purchased with it.

SNAP replaced the Food Stamp Program.  Those eligible for help are issued an EBT card, which replaces paper food stamps and is considered safer, faster and more convenient than cash or checks.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the program:

SNAP benefits can only be used for food and for plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:

  • Any nonfood item, such as pet foods; soaps, paper products, and household supplies; grooming items, toothpaste, and cosmetics
  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Any food that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods

In addition, EBT cards can be used only in certain grocery stores and farmers markets and may not be used for online purchases.

However, some states permit EBT cards to be used by those in cash assistance programs to receive cash advances. In addition, a federal program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) also permits use of the EBT to obtain cash.

Sources where cash advances may be obtained are limited, and specifically do not include liquor stores.

However, it appears to be entirely possible to use an EBT to obtain cash from an authorized source,  then buy beer and smokes  from the liquor store next door.

It’s important to note, though, that while the number of Americans receiving aid is at an all-time high, food-stamp overpayments have dropped to record lows, and the amount of food-stamp spending lost to fraud and abuse is only about 1 percent of expenditures.

Source:  Food-Stamp Overpayments Drop With Record Usage: BGOV Barometer – Bloomberg

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