Friday, April 17, 2015

Photo IDs on Wisconsin Food Stamp Cards

On Tuesday, I circulated a proposal for support in the Legislature that would add photos to Wisconsin FoodShare EBT cards, known as QUEST cards. You may be more familiar with the term "food stamp," which is how the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was formerly known.

SNAP benefits are 100 percent federally funded and are administered to Wisconsin residents by the Department of Health Services' (DHS) FoodShare program via an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. As of January 2015, 820,000 Wisconsin residents received $92 million in SNAP benefits. In calendar year 2014, Wisconsin distributed over $1.1 billion in benefits. Administration costs of the program are shared 50/50 between the state and federal governments, with Wisconsin's state share costing $47 million in federal fiscal year 2013 (most recent data year available).

As with any government program, there is the problem of fraud, and Wisconsin's FoodShare program is no different. However, thanks to Governor Walker's 2011-13 budget initiative to crack down on FoodShare fraud, DHS has tracked recipient benefit fraud activity since 2012. According to DHS data, recipient benefit overpayments have been on the rise from $3.6 million in calendar year (CY) 2012 and $5.59 million in CY 2013, to over $6.6 million in CY 2014.

My proposal attempts to counter this fraud by directing DHS to formulate a plan to implement photo IDs on QUEST cards. This plan, along with a waiver request to require benefit recipients to show their photo card, will be sent to the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for approval.

Should the FNS grant approval of both DHS' implementation plan and the waiver request, the package then moves to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance for final approval.  

The reason for this proposal is simple - I hope to be able to add an additional layer of deterrence to these cards to discourage fraudulent use. Currently, the only built-in measure to deter misuse of QUEST cards is a unique PIN required to access benefits at the point of sale. While I understand that this measure is by no means a fool-proof solution, I feel it is one more way we can help combat and prevent fraud in Wisconsin's FoodShare program.


Latest Video Update

Please click below to watch my latest video address, in which I discuss my recent proposal to add photos to state QUEST cards for FoodShare beneficiaries.


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