Several local food banks and hunger centers are pushing back against a recent legislative proposal to require photos of many recipients on the Ohio’s food stamp cards.
The proposal announced by Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost earlier this month would affect participants in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The photographs would be added to the SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
Most and bill sponsors Sen Matt Huffman and Rep. Tim Schaffer explained that the photo requirements would help combat fraud.
But local organizations like the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, which runs several hunger centers throughout the Cleveland-area, worry that the proposal could end up hurting the clients that are using the system correctly.
“I believe the dignity of that person is affected and that’s something we’re going to fight for,” explained John Litten, Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent DePaul.
He worries that many clients who want to be discreet about using their cards would feel uncomfortable having to show identification, while most shoppers do not.
There’s also confusion about how family members and caretakers would be able to use the cards.
According to the legislation, there would be exemptions for individuals 60 years and older, disabled, those who are victims of domestic violence and those with religious objections to a photo.
“So what you’re going to have is some people who are going to have to abide by this photo ID and some that are not,” explained Colleen Benson, Senior Manager of Development and Government Programs at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, “Again creating confusion.”
Benson and Litten both worry that the extra burden of adding a photo to the card could lead to eligible recipients leaving the program or not signing up.
“That’s more people that won’t participate in the program but may then come to stand in line at a food pantry where supplies are already stretched thin,” Benson said.
While some states have used photos from the DMV database, clients without state-issued driver's licenses would have to make arrangements to have their pictures taken.
"You’re talking about the hungriest of the hungry, the neediest of the needy who would be most penalized," Litten said.
For a list of frequently asked questions about the proposed requirement head to the Auditor of State’s website.