GOP lawmakers fight for EBT photo ID

BOSTON (WWLP) — Republican lawmakers say they will fight to require photo identification on EBT cards, even though the state Senate has struck it down.

“I think time is of the essence and I think it’s because the public is that outraged at this point in time,” said Sen. Michael Knapik (R-Westfield).

As 22 News reported on Tuesday, the state Auditor released a report that identified more than $2 million dollars in welfare benefits were given to dead recipients between July 2010 and December 2012. To combat fraud, House lawmakers want photo identification on electronic benefit transfer cards.   

“It was so overwhelming supported in the House,” said Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich). “For months if not years we have identified many, many problems within that program and we think that the budget was the vehicle to make those repairs to that system.”

But the state Senate struck down that provision in their version of the budget. While Senators agree that welfare fraud must be rooted out, Senate President Therese Murray wants to make sure it’s done in a comprehensive way. Murray plans to release her own welfare reform bill in the coming weeks.

“This entire system needs a reform, it’s not something that we can just either put a picture on an ID or we can just decide to do another piece of it and not do the entire process.  There’s issues that start from when people begin the application process to when their transitioned off,” said Sen. Jennifer Flanagan (D-Leominster).

Westfield Republican Senator Knapik has been assigned to a committee of 6 lawmakers that will work to consolidate the Senate and House versions of the state budget. He says he will push to have the EBT card photo ID amendment included in the final budget.

“I think we can have our cake and eat it too, do some thing right now to restore some public confidence in the system but also do those things that require a little more fact-gathering,” said Knapik.

The EBT card photo ID amendment was defeated in the Senate 38 to 8.  Western Massachusetts Senators Benjamin Downing, Gale Candaras, James Welch, Stephen Brewer, and Stanley Rosenberg voted against it.  Sen. Knapik voted for it.


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