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Senator Wants Food Stamp Purchases to Require Photo ID

Louisiana Senator says showing photo ID could curb fraud under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Published on: Jan 22, 2014

A Louisiana Senator has a new plan that he says would cut down on fraud and restore accountability in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program: showing a photo ID when using benefit cards.

Republican David Vitter, who introduced legislation last week, says his "Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act" could avoid situations like the Oct. 14 computer glitch in two Louisiana towns that falsely showed unlimited balances on some food stamp cards.

The glitch caused some beneficiaries to purchase quantities of merchandise in dollar amounts clearly beyond their limits. When the issue was resolved, many shoppers reportedly abandoned carts full of food.

Louisiana Senator says showing photo ID could curb fraud under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Louisiana Senator says showing photo ID could curb fraud under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Vitter said the incidents exposed flaws with the SNAP program's Electronic Benefits Transfer system.

"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. "Food Stamps have more than doubled in cost since 2008 and continue to grow in an unsustainable way, and the events in Louisiana unfortunately highlight the fraud surrounding the taxpayer-funded program.

"My bill will restore some accountability to the program so it's not ruined for people who use it appropriately," Vitter said in a statement.

Vitter noted that states do have the option to require a photograph of one or more members of a household on the Electronic Benefits Transfer debit card – much like a photo on some debit cards. However, none enforce the option, Vitter's office said.

If a state chooses not to include the household member(s) photograph on the card itself, the Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act creates a mandatory verification step in the purchasing process for SNAP beneficiaries. Anyone caught attempting to illegally use another recipient's EBT card would be banned from the program.