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No SNAP Shots - The Move to Nix Pix on Food Stamp Cards

GRAPHIC: A plan to require photo ID on SNAP cards for Massachusetts food stamp recipients is being criticized as costly and discriminatory. Illustration courtesy AARP
GRAPHIC: A plan to require photo ID on SNAP cards for Massachusetts food stamp recipients is being criticized as costly and discriminatory. Illustration courtesy AARP
June 27, 2013

BOSTON - Bills headed for final revision in the Statehouse would make numerous changes in the way Massachusetts administers programs such as cash assistance and SNAP, formerly known as food stamps. The legislation is under fire, particularly because it would require photo IDs. Critics said that would be both costly and discriminatory.

The measure would require issuing new photo ID cards. This would be especially hard on seniors, said Mike Festa, AARP, noting that some 119,000 older folks are eligible for SNAP but do not apply.

"Please don't put those photographs on the EBT cards. You're going to create another access barrier, and we need to make access to these programs easier," he said.

Backers of the bills, led by Senate President Therese Murray, are concerned about fraud and inefficiency in SNAP and other programs. SNAP supporters said claims of fraud are overstated and that better tools exist to address them.

Pat Baker of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute said federal law prevents supermarkets and grocery stores from selectively carding SNAP recipients and not carding people who use debit or credit cards.

"They would be violating the federal law to just card SNAP recipients," she warned. "The SNAP card is already protected with a PIN, just like your and my debit cards."

It is hard enough for many low-income people, especially seniors, to bring themselves to the point of seeking assistance, Festa said.

"Some folks, frankly, are embarrassed to have to ask for or need these kinds of benefits. It's just going to add another burden or another barrier to what would be otherwise a ready access to benefits," he said.

Baker, too, called on lawmakers to nix the photo ID idea.

"There are better, smarter methods to get at the problems that they may believe exist, but a photo ID is absolutely the wrong way," she said.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA