Today the House Human Services Committee will hear several bills that would require Lone Star EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards, used by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) recipients, to have a photo ID of the cardholder. Proponents argue these bills will reduce fraud rates, which are already exceptionally low. But in reality these bills will only add barriers and costs to a system that has made so much progress in modernizing its functions.
Currently, the majority of those seeking SNAP and/or TANF benefits in Texas apply through a streamlined online system that uses third-party electronic verification and eliminates the need to travel in person to apply. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has been able to serve more Texans (a 16 percent caseload increase) without an increase in staffing. These bills would now force applicants to travel to HHSC offices for a photo ID, and will roll back a decade of progress in Texas, creating new unnecessary costs and barriers.
Costs to the state are expected to rise if Texas enacts photo ID requirements. The Legislative Budget Board estimates that the addition of a photo would end up costing $7 million to Texans this biennium.
There are already many checks in place to eliminate any chance of fraud. For example, a stringent application process and the issuing of a Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) combat recipient and retailer fraud. In addition, federal law requires all household members to be eligible to use SNAP benefits. Requirement for a photo ID could cause trouble for a teenager with a different last name from his or her grandparent when using the family’s EBT card to purchase food staples like eggs and milk.
Adding photo identification to EBT cards is costly and does nothing to eliminate the very low levels of fraud in the system. Instead lawmakers should focus on how best to meet the needs of more Texans who need food assistance.