SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers in Springfield are considering requiring photos on food stamp debit cards as a way to cut fraud.
By Mary J. Cristobal
SPRINGFIELD – Photos of consumers on their credit cards may protect them from fraud. If the same method is put in place for food stamp debit cards – could it give Illinois a sense of protection from fraudulent users?
State Rep. Chapin Rose,R-Charleston, said it might.
People across the state are a step closer to being required to have their photos on their Link Cards, which is provided by the state’s Department of Human Services. The official name for the state’s food stamp program is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance.
State Rep. Roger Eddy, R-Hutsonville, said by stopping fraud, the state could provide more service for others who need it the most.
“Your primary concern is fraud and the potential for fraud in the system,” Eddy said. “And you’re looking for a way that individuals who receive these benefits — not because they shouldn’t have the benefits — at the end of the day could allow for more benefits available to go to those individuals who need them and actually, they can have more.”
House Bill 161 stirred up a heated debate before it was passed by a 64-48 vote. If the plan is signed into law, it would require DHS to seek a waiver to the federal government to allow Illinois to include photos on Link cards, and DHS would have to provide the General Assembly the cost to place photos on the cards.
While DHS is at the center of the plan, it opposes the legislation, DHS spokeswoman, Marielle Sainvilus said.
Link cards are under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is funded by the federal government. It is against the law to treat SNAP beneficiaries differently from other customers, Sainvilus said.
Most Democrats were against the plan. State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, called the bill “wasteful” of time and money.
“Food stamps are a 100 percent entitlement,” Feigenholtz said. “This bill is going to spend 2 (million) to 4 million dollars and waste a ton of time of the Department of Human Services.”
The state would not see any potential savings through “deterred fraud,” but it would cost the state millions of dollars to implement the change, Sainvilus said.
Rose, the bill’s sponsor, said the photos on the cards would “add an extra line of defense” against abuse on the system.
“I don’t see what the efficacy is in handing someone the ability on a weekly basis to trade a card easily for drugs, for cash to buy drugs,” he said.
State Rep. William Burns, D-Chicago, said he’s concerned that an extra “line of defense” could actually create another hurdle to some families.
“A number of different groups are opposed to this bill, and are very concerned about its impact potentially the results with the state might come up, and that it might create a barrier to access these resources,” Burns said.