Georgia Set to Squander $7.8 Million on Food Stamps ID

melissa blogGeorgia’s Department of Human Services is asking the state to include $7.8 million in its 2016 budget to put photos on electronic cards used by food stamp recipients.

This is an expensive solution to a virtually non-existent problem. Spending millions to create photo ID cards will not prevent large-scale fraud through food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Instead, it will likely lead to added confusion by retailers. These millions could be better spent educating Georgia’s citizens.

Department officials requested the $7.8 million to implement one of the requirements of HB 772, a bill passed by the 2014 General Assembly to require drug tests for food stamp and welfare recipients at their own expense if state workers suspect them of drug use. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill, but put the food stamp drug testing requirements on hold after the state attorney general advised implementing those could cost Georgia federal food stamp money.

The portion of the misguided bill that requires a photo on the benefits card, however, is gaining traction. It says a photo of one or more authorized members of a household must appear on each food stamp benefit card. This requirement is set to take effect Jan. 1, 2016. The $7.8 million department request just pays for the first year to get the photo ID system up and running.

Lawmakers who pushed for the photo ID argue it’s necessary to prevent fraud. That doesn’t square with the facts.

First, food stamp fraud is not a rampant problem. Less than 1 percent of food stamp benefits are sold for cash.

Photo IDs on food stamp cards also do not prevent the kind of fraud you see in the headlines from time to time. A recipient committing food stamp fraud by converting benefits into cash is probably working with a corrupt store owner. A federal indictment for food stamp fraud handed down in Savannah this summer describes just such an arrangement. Corrupt store owners won’t be deterred by a photo on the food stamp card.

Asking cashiers to keep track of people using photos on food stamp cards will cause confusion for retailers. Federal law says that seniors, people with disabilities and other recipients who have trouble getting to the store are allowed to designate someone outside their household to shop for them. How will cashiers be sure they’re complying with both state and federal law when caregivers’ faces don’t match the photos on the food stamp cards?

For $7.8 million the state could educate more of its people by offering financial assistance for higher education. Georgia could ensure that hundreds of its citizens received a technical college credential with that amount of money.

Redirecting the $7.8 million to education carries two benefits. It could increase Georgia’s trained workforce, while reducing the number of people who will need food assistance in the future. And it would pull the plug on a wrong-headed effort to create food stamp IDs that won’t deter fraud, but will create confusion at the cash register and flush millions of dollars down the drain.

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1 thought on “Georgia Set to Squander $7.8 Million on Food Stamps ID”

  1. Where is the concern for all those food stamp recipients “double dipping”? I am referring to those who receive the food stamps and also receive “FREE” breakfast, “FREE” lunch, “FREE” after-school program snacks/meals, “FREE” bookbag of food on Friday at school to take home for the weekend, “FREE” PB&J lunch on Saturdays from churches, other “FREE” foods and supplies from churches or social organizations?
    I am a very compassionate person and I am more than willing to help those who need help and are willing to do something for themselves to better their situation; however, TOO Many people take advantage of the system by accessing all these “freebies” but still get the regular monthly allowance of food stamps, which they shouldn’t have too much food to purchase after all of the other being furnished to them. Deduct the amount of school meals from their food stamps total, then they won’t have any to sell for cash. There has to be better ways of dealing with this problem. I can’t understand how you come up with the 1% figure when so many people trade their food stamps for drugs and services, or sell them for 50 cents on the dollar.
    Too many people don’t want to take advantage of school offers or job offers because they make more money from their food stamps, medicaid, and unnecessary SSI, etc.

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