Under the House the House of Representatives state budget proposal, welfare recipients would be required to have photo identification on their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.
“We believe that by placing photos on EBT cards that can act and will act as a deterrent to deal with some of the issues of trafficking,” said Rep. Brian Dempsey (D-Haverhill).
State lawmakers say it will prevent welfare recipients from selling their cards under face value for cash to businesses who use them to stock their stores with goods.
“There’s almost like a black market in EBT cards,” said Rep. Cheryl Coakley Rivera (D-Springfield). “So you may have somebody from a business literally going into a big bulk store and using ten to twenty EBT cards off of one purchase.”
But Patrick administration officials say photo identification is not worth the added cost. Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz explained that the idea was considered and rejected by former Governor Mitt Romney.
“There is a fairly significant cost for us to put that system in place and I think this has been asked and answered before underneath the Romney administration 2004 when they made the determination that it wasn’t cost effective,” said Sec. Polanowicz.
As part of a 100-day action plan, the state’s welfare agency is monitoring ATMs and point-of-sale purchases to identify prohibited sales of items like liquor and lottery tickets. That information will now be shared with local law enforcement to crack down on fraud.
House lawmakers have also proposed spending $350,000 dollars on improving welfare eligibility rules.
State officials say the vast majority of food stamp benefits are used to make legitimate purchases.
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