A bill was passed on November 1 by the Ohio House of Representatives that will require photo identification on food stamp cards. Some food stamp recipients expressed approval, saying that it will prevent fraudulent use by non-beneficiaries. House Bill 50 requires SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to have a color photograph of at least one member of the household to whom the card is issued. The bill also requires the cards to list a website and phone number where suspected fraud can be reported.

Exceptions to the proposed law include adult household members who :

Age 60 or older
Are blind
Have a disability
Are a victim of domestic violence
Have religious objections to being photographed
The law also exempts households with no adult members.

“The food stamp program is a lifesaver for thousands of Ohioans, and we must do all we can to ensure the integrity of the program so the truly needy get the assistance they need,” said State Auditor Dave Yost. “By requiring photos on these cards, we’ll deter the abuse of these cards by the unscrupulous – including drug dealers, and put food on the table of our financially troubled neighbors.” The bill now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

Yost announced earlier this year his support for adding photo identification to food stamp cards in the state to curb fraud. The Ohio Access card is used for food purchases for the month and is reloaded every 30 days. Clients enter a pin number at the cash register in much the same way as do debit card users. 

In Mahoning County alone, the program costs $40 million per month and serves 35,000 households. Mahoning County is located in western Ohio along the Pennsylvania border. It circumscribes Youngstown.

Major fraud in Mahoning County and elsewhere in the Buckeye State occurs when beneficiaries fraudulently sell their food stamp card to others for money. Yost said in February that an audit last of Ohio’s $2.5 billion food stamps program found weaknesses that would be alleviated with a photo ID. He said the food stamp error rate is nearly 5 percent or $125 million. Drug dealers are known to exchange narcotics for EBT cards.
 



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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