Ohio Senate could pass bill requiring photos for SNAP benefits


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — One in eight Ohioans needs help putting food on their table, and they get that help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Now, some state lawmakers want those benefits to be managed on a card with the recipient’s photo. The state Senate could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.

Supporters said adding photos to EBT cards is supposed to stop people from selling their cards for drugs, but SNAP experts said it’s going to do nothing of the sort while costing the state millions in taxpayer dollars. In 2017, 1,502,000 Ohioans received SNAP benefits.

According to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, in 2017, county agency investigators identified 2,465 cases of SNAP fraud of nearly $4.5 million, which represents .2 percent of the money issued to Ohioans that year.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, does not believe fraud is rampant in Ohio, partially because names are not only printed on the cards.

“You have to have the PIN which to even activate the benefits,” Hamler-Fugitt said.

According to federal guidelines, if photos are added to cards, people in the household that do not match the photo cannot be denied use of the card. So if the picture doesn’t have to match, and the name on the card doesn’t have to match, how is this going to stop someone from selling the card for drugs?

“It’s an added layer of security,” said state Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster).

That added layer of security is going to cost an estimated $15 million.

“We are taking that from information that we have received from other states who have attempted to implement this provision and abandoned it for one, it being ineffective; did not achieve the purpose that they thought that it would as a fraud deterrent, but the cost associated with it is just outrageous,” Hamler-Fugitt said.

Seventeen other states have passed a similar bill; 16 of those have stopped using it, and Massachussettes, the last to pass it, has suspended it.

Schaffer said just because 17 states couldn’t get it right, doesn’t mean Ohio can’t, either. He believes his legislation takes into account what he calls mistakes other states have made.

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