Should EBT cards be banned at fast food restaurants?

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A proposed bill to ban the use of EBT cards at fast food restaurants has opponents speaking out.

"We'll definitely oppose it.," said Phil Pangrazio.

He is the president & CEO of Arizona Bridge to Independent Living or, ABIL an organization that promotes programs to help empower people with disabilities.

"Making a change like this, it's just going to be really punitive to people with disabilities," Pangrazio said.

He is talking about House Bill 2051, introduced by east Valley Representative Kelly Townsend, (R) Mesa.

The bill would add fast food and quick-serve restaurants to the list of banned uses for state funded electronic benefit transfer cards, or EBT cards.

Right now only certain EBT cardholders are able to use their cards at those places.

"There's a specific group of people who are able to do that: the disabled, homeless and elderly," said Representative Townsend.

The Republican lawmaker says this bill will not only save the state money in the short term but in the long term as well.

"Where is that cost going to really hit us the most? It's going to be in Medicaid when we have to now treat their diseases because of the kinds of food that we're feeding them allowing them to eat," Rep. Townsend said.

Pangrazio, though, does not buy that argument.

"I don't think it's going to save a whole lot of money," he said.

While he agrees with Townsend that healthy and nutrition are important, he says most of those living with disabilities are also living on a fixed income.

"They're having to pinch pennies and make that monthly funding go as far as it can possibly go. It clearly is not something, where they're out there wasting their money and going to Jack in the Box seven days a week," said Pangrazio.

He believes this bill is not only unnecessary but misguided as well, saying all it does is limit people's choices and take away a valuable option.

"It's just not always practical for someone with a disability or an elderly person to always have food available in their refrigerator," he said.

In addition, he says its also not always possible for the disabled or elderly to cook three times a day, seven days a week.

Similarly, Joan Serviss, The Executive Director for  The Arizona Coalition to end Homelessness sent us a statement that says in part:

"Individuals experiencing homelessness often congregate around where they are seeking shelter for the night, which in Phoenix, also happens to be a food desert. If given the choice between going to bed hungry or going to bed with a hamburger in someone's stomach, we opt for the latter."

Rep. Townsend is confident the bill will be heard during the session.

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