Feds caution state about photo ID for food stamp cards

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has asked Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) for additional information about a new state law that requires food stamp recipients to have a photo ID incorporated into their electronic benefits transfer cards (EBT).

The USDA cautioned that implementing a photo ID requirement, while permissible, “involves complex legal, operational, and civil rights issues that, if not well planned, can adversely affect access for program participants and increase the risk of litigation should something go wrong.”

The letter from USDA regional administrator Robin Bailey to DHS Commissioner Keith Horton is the latest wrinkle in ongoing discussions between the two agencies over a new state law (HB 772) that requires some food stamp applicants to pass a drug test as well as add a photo to the benefits card that is used in the grocery checkout line.

Bailey told Horton in earlier letters that states cannot impose drug tests as a requirement for food stamp eligibility. The latest communication is a warning about the law’s other major provision, the photo ID requirement.

Problems have arisen in other states that have tried to implement a photo ID requirement for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“Concerns have included logistics associated with producing the cards, the activation process for new cards coupled with deactivation of existing cards, ensuring that all household members have sufficient and appropriate notice and are able to continue to access their benefits, and ensuring proper retailer notice and training,” Bailey wrote.

“There are also a variety of civil rights considerations, such as how the requirements are applied to non-applicant household members,” Bailey said.

DHS officials have already worked with USDA to clear up a backlog in applications for food stamp benefits, a delay that had resulted in the state getting a warning about the possible loss of federal funds. That warning was removed this week after DHS corrected some of the problems.

“The department will work closely with the USDA to ensure that implementation of the photo ID requirement of HB 772 complies with federal law and allows eligible participants to access their food stamp benefits,” DHS spokesperson Ashley Fielding said.

“USDA will work with the state of Georgia to ensure that the state’s plan is within the bounds of the law and that eligible participants can adequately access their benefits,” said spokesman Johnathan Monroe.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: DHS , EBT cards , food stamps , Keith Horton , photo IDs , Robin Bailey , SNAP , USDA