Lawmakers Seek Photo ID Requirements For Food Stamps

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Republicans have introduced new legislation that would change how people redeem food stamps.

Rep. Matt Salmon introduced the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Verify Act, which would require recipients to show a photo ID when they use their government-issued SNAP debit cards to buy food. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, presented a similar bill in January.

"This act seeks to protect those who truly need SNAP assistance, and ensures those who would defraud recipients and the U.S. taxpayer are unable," Salmon, a Arizona Republican representative, said in a statement.

The Huffington Post reported Republicans have repeatedly advocated for photo ID requirements for SNAP recipients to prevent fraud. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a 1.3 percent of the $78 billion program is trafficked every year — usually by people selling their debit cards for cash.

Maine and Massachusetts have already tackled the issue. Massachusetts started putting SNAP recipients’ photo on their debit cards in 2013, but received complaints from the USDA that the state was using the photo requirement to cut benefits.

The USDA has similar concerns about Maine’s policy and has threatened to cut administrative funding to the state. The issue is that a single SNAP debit card usually benefits an entire household, but only the person whose photo is on the card can use it.

The Congressional legislation is different because it requires a separate photo ID to be presented in addition to the SNAP debit card. Opponents argue it would place a heavy burden on the poor and minorities — the same objections advocates have presented about voter ID laws.

Source: The Huffington Post Image via Wikimedia Commons