RI Battles Over Photo ID Requirements to End Food Stamp Fraud
Monday, February 03, 2014
“People in my district have seen people selling their food stamp benefits. It has made them angry,” Rep. Morgan said.
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.’”
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.
- A LIVELY EXPERIMENT May 26, 2011 Part 3 Food Stamp Fraud
- A LIVELY EXPERIMENT May 26, 2011 Part 4 Preventing Food Stamp Fraud
- Needy Families Frozen Out of Food Stamps Before Holidays
- RI Reps Poised to Fight Food Stamp Fraud
- Rob Horowitz: Food Stamps Are the Wrong Political Football
- State Report: Food Stamp Fraud, Tax Cuts, Tenants’ Rights + Grants
- RI State Report: SNAP Fraud, Foreclosures and Tougher Parole Laws