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RI Battles Over Photo ID Requirements to End Food Stamp Fraud

Monday, February 03, 2014

 

Rep. Patricia Morgan aims to stop SNAP benefit abuse by requiring EBT cardholders to provide a photo ID for purchases. This isn’t the first time she’s championed such a bill. As it was before, her opposition is ready for another fight.

“People in my district have seen people selling their food stamp benefits. It has made them angry,” Rep. Morgan said.

Discrimination concerns

The West Warwick Republican said SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is prone to fraud because anyone can use the benefit cards without providing identification. She claims some SNAP beneficiaries are selling their cards for 50 cents on the dollar, turning the government subsidy into cash.

“When you do that you’re stealing money from a program that other people truly need. That weakens the program and threatens the integrity of the government.”

Her opposition, in the form of Kathleen Gorman, was rather shocked to see the bill introduced again. Gorman, Director of the Feinstein Center for a Hunger Free America, has testified against this bill before. Her categorical rebuttal of the bill came fast and to the point.

“First of all, the USDA [administer of the SNAP program] does not allow for the requiring of any type of photo ID. The only thing you need, according to the USDA, is an EBT card,” Gorman said.

“They don’t allow for any kind of discrimination of people using SNAP benefits or any other kind of government services.”

She continued to rattle off her opposition:

Regarding fairness: “If we pass a law like this any store that accepts any kind of debit card would need to require that every person using a debit card must present a photo ID.”

Regarding practicality: “A SNAP card is issued to a household, usually to the head of the household. I could be issued a SNAP card, and my husband and three children are eligible to use that card. But only my name would be on it.”

Regarding Rep. Morgan: “I don’t understand why she doesn’t understand,” Gorman said.

After Gorman used these arguments to testify against the bill last year, “She said to me: ‘Yes, but we have to stop all those criminals.’”

National Precedent

Rep. Morgan is not alone on this. Not only does she have the full support of the Republican Caucus, there is also national precedent for the bill. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) recently introduced legislation to require food stamp recipients to produce a valid photo ID every time they purchase food with their EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. Under the Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act, anyone caught using someone else’s EBT card illegally would be banned from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

"Using a photo ID is standard in many day-to-day transactions, and most of those are not exclusively paid for by the taxpayer dollars," Vitter said in a press release.

"Food stamps have more than doubled in cost since 2008 and continue to grow in an unsustainable way.”

Advocacy groups for low-income Americans criticized Vitter’s proposal as ineffective and harmful to struggling families.

Reductions in benefits program

Last year, Congress cut approximately $5 billion in the food stamp benefits program. More cuts are on the way. Food stamp users can expect an $8.7 billion reduction in the SNAP program over the next several years. The reduction could cause households to lose about $90 per month in SNAP assistance. Preventing SNAP fraud, Rep. Morgan said, will help strengthen the program.

“It’s the ‘broken window’ syndrome. If you don’t fix a broken window, before you know it another one is broken. And another is broken. This is kind of the same thing. I think the government has to be serious about stopping theft,” Rep. Morgan said.

“Before you know it, more and more people are doing it. At some point the system gets broken.

 

Related Slideshow: Pew Research: New England Employment Figures From FY2007 to FY2013

While unemployment figures receive more media attention, the employment rate is a preferred index for many economists because it provides a sharper picture of changes in the labor market. The unemployment rate, for example, fails to count workers who stopped looking for a job. By focusing on 25- to 54-year-olds, trends are less distorted by demographic effects such as older and younger workers’ choices regarding retirement or full-time education.

Below are the employment rates in FY2007 and FY2013 for New England states as referenced by the Pew Charitable Trust's "Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis" Report, ranked from best to worst.

Prev Next

#1 Vermont

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 83.5%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 82.6%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -0.9

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: not significant

Prev Next

#2 New Hampshire

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 85.1%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 82.4%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -2.7

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: not significant

Prev Next

#3 Massachusetts

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 80.3%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 79.1%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -1.3

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: not significant

Prev Next

#4 Connecticut

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 81.8%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 77.1%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -4.8

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: significant

Prev Next

#5 Rhode Island

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 82.5%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 76.8%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -5.7

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: significant

Prev Next

#6 Maine

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 81.3%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 76.6%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -4.6

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: significant

Prev Next

United States Average

CY2007 Employment-population ratio: 79.9%

FY2013 Employment-population ratio: 75.9%

Percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: -4.1

Statistical significance of percentage point change, CY2007-FY2013: significant

 
 

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Comments:

SNAP fraud has been documented in Massachusetts and one need not look any further for legislation requiring photo ID for SNAP than Massachusetts either. People have multiple SNAP cards and they aren't at the addresses they claim to maintain.

Comment #1 by Jim D on 2014 02 03

Mr Alvarez, did you give any thought to identifying any evidence that "food stamp fraud" is a problem here in Rhode Island?

Comment #2 by Greg Richane on 2014 02 03

There is absolutely no incentive for the party of big government, Rhode Island Democrats, to ferret out waste, fraud, and abuse in big government programs. Quite the contrary, Rhode Island Democrats are incentivized to do the opposite.

The more waste, fraud, and abuse, the more expansive the program; the more unionized government employees required to service the program; which means more dues funneled into union coffers; leading to more money channeled to union-compliant politicians, who liberalize the rules and eligibility requirements and refuse to police the program.

When there is controversy regarding even the most basic common-sense reform like this, then there is truly no hope for working, tax-paying Rhode Islanders.

Comment #3 by Christopher Lee on 2014 02 03

Republicans should be happy with the voter I.D. This food stamp I.D. idea has as much chance as a republican in an old folk's home.

Comment #4 by David Beagle on 2014 02 03

Regarding fairness: “If we pass a law like this any store that accepts any kind of debit card would need to require that every person using a debit card must present a photo ID.”

When everybody else starts putting money in my account that's linked to my debit card, I will be MORE than happy to supply a photo ID.

WTF is it with people that refuse to fight fraud?!?!

Comment #5 by Patrick Boyd on 2014 02 03

Why would anyone not want to make certain that our social welfare net isn't being abused? Especially in light of $5,000,000,000 being cut from the program. Now is when we need to be certain more than ever that the benefits are going to the people that truly need them.
Schools aren't allowed that to ask if students are here legally.
Hospitals aren't allowed to ask if patients are in this country legally.
Democrats don't want to fight fraud in social welfare programs. Their too stupid to understand that when people commit fraud for these services there is less for those that really need the help. Instead they call people that want to keep the money they earned, greedy. Keep voting in tax and spend democrats, the unskilled and poor will keep coming in, and the skilled high earners will keep leaving.

Comment #6 by Redd Ratt on 2014 02 03

Greg Ricane, Ken Block proved there is food stamp fraud in R.I. and Gov. Chafee didn't want to release it. He evenually released it, several store owners were indited. Mr. Block also saved the state of Texas billions weedng out fraud in entitlement programs. Also, I half witnessed this first hand working in several inner-city neighborhoods.

Comment #7 by LDN65 on 2014 02 03

David Beagle, Voter ID not just a Republican idea, I am an independent and I support voter ID. You have to show ID for so many things, it most certainly should be required for voting. The ID's are free for low income people and they can get free bus passes. Or a free ride on many of the RIPTA buses you call to schedule ride from.

Comment #8 by LDN65 on 2014 02 03

“[Food stamp fraud] weakens the program and threatens the integrity of the government”

What weakens the SNAP program is when benefits are cut to the most vulnerable and desperate Americans, most of whom work, by the callous shills in Washington who for the monied interests. And what integrity are you talking about? Congress has a 9% approval rating. The only integrity they have is among those who are ignorant and gullible enough to listen to them and believe them.

Rep. Morgan’s job - when she crawls out from under her rock - is to divert attention from the food stamp cuts by whipping up assorted forms of low life, to attack and scapegoat people living hand-to-mouth, who constantly juggle whether they will eat, heat or pay their rent and utilities from month to month.

With all the scams and frauds perpetrated in this society, starting with Morgan herself, this is where she and the Republican caucus have directed their energies. I’m sure the good people of W. Warwick - which is nearly bankrupt - will sleep better tonight. Rep. Morgan has their backs.

Comment #9 by Johnny cakes on 2014 02 03

Johnny cakes, Showing Id is an attempt to protect these programs for the people that need them. In RI a state Id card is free. Only the frauds don't support common sense protections.

Comment #10 by Redd Ratt on 2014 02 03

Jonnycake, you are so naive. I used to work in human service field, for 30 years. There are really needy people and that's why it's so important to make sure the truly poor people in need SNAP. Drive by a shelter on the first of the month and see how many are selling their EBT cards. I have been approached more than once by people asking me if I would like to buy them. I've seen generational welfare, gold jewelry(real gold), expensive phones, the most expensive clothes and sneakers, and some of the most expensive cars on the road. Jaquars, Mercedes, BMW's.

Comment #11 by LDN65 on 2014 02 03

I want those that NEED assistance to get it, consider it a gift. Those that take it and not NEED it that's theft of tax payers. We should have their photo placed on the EBT card?

Comment #12 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 02 04

Food stamp fraud is by far, the most wasteful of all government programs. The person/people in charge of running this program, should be arrested and imprisoned, for wasting taxpayers money.

There are some people who actually need the assistance, and they should get it. That's what the program was designed for.

The fact that everyone turns away at the fraud and lets it go on, is absolutely criminal!!!!!!

Comment #13 by pearl fanch on 2014 02 04

@ Johnny cakes

Can we really threaten the integrity of Government?
Rhetorical question no need to answer.
"Integrity of Government" is an oxymoron.

Comment #14 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 02 04




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