Bill would require photo ID on all EBT cards

A bill at the Rhode Island State House would require photo identification be put on all electronic benefit transfer cards.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Mary Messier, D-Pawtucket. She said the bill is designed to prevent fraud.

"It's a really big problem. People will sell their EBT card, give their PIN number and that person will pay them cash. That person will use that to buy liquor, cigarettes, play in the casino. So it's mostly to prevent fraud," she said.

The House Finance Committee heard the proposal on Tuesday.

Opponents of the bill say it's a burden for the disabled and elderly.

"Individuals that are working, individuals that are elderly individuals that are disabled do not have to come into the office. With this legislation, they would now have to come into the office to get their photo on the EBT card," said Bob McDonoguh of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.

"Some of our disabled and elderly clients also use an authorized representative because they are homebound or have physical restrictions," said Lee Ann Byrne of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.

But what about the allegation that there is rampant fraud in the program?

"Information tells us there isn't a lot of fraud in the (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) program. I believe the national numbers are 3 percent that fraud nationally is at 3 percent. We'd like to see no fraud," said Linda Katz of the Economic Progress Institute.

Messier said there are about 100,000 Rhode Islanders who collect benefits on the program.

Messier said because the change would require a cost and not save the state any money, she said the bill probably won't pass this year.