Vitter Introduced Bill to Require Photo ID for Food Stamp Purchases

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) introduced the Food Stamp Fraud Prevention and Accountability Act to require beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to show a valid photo ID when purchasing items with SNAP funding. Recent incidents in northwest Louisiana exposed flaws with the SNAP program’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, and Vitter’s legislation would prevent future fraud.

“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.”

On October 14, a system failure by Xerox disabled the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system across many states, including Louisiana. This essentially erased any spending limits on many beneficiaries' EBT cards for a period of time. Some Louisiana beneficiaries reacted by purchasing huge quantities of merchandise in dollar amounts clearly beyond their limits. Also, reports include some people bypassing checkout lines completely and simply walking out with full carts during the confusion.

States have the option to require a photograph of one or more members of a household on the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) debit card – much like a photo on some debit cards, however, none enforce this requirement. 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.

A requirement to provide photo ID would verify that a person is the legal beneficiary of the EBT card. Anyone caught attempting to illegally use another recipient’s EBT card would be banned from the program.

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