Lawmakers announce changes in Ohio’s food benefits program to help curb fraud
Auditor of State Dave Yost, Rep. Tim Schaffer and Sen. Matt Huffman announced new legislation designed to curb fraud in Ohio’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program.
The legislation includes measures to prevent unauthorized use of SNAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, such as a requirement for photographs of recipients on cards.
During the news conference held in the Ohio Statehouse Wednesday, Yost said the bills Schaffer and Huffman plan to introduce will include:
- Photo identification: On the front of each EBT card, a color photograph of at least one member of the household to whom the card is issued
- Telephone number and website: On the back of the card, a telephone number and website where suspected fraud can be reported
- Exemptions: The new requirements will not apply to adult household members who are age 60 or older; are blind; have a disability; are a victim of domestic violence, have religious objections to being photographed or if the household does not include any adult members
This comes after 10 Investigates uncovered October 2015 why some recipients of food assistance have tens of thousands of dollars on their government benefit cards. 10 Investigates found 41 households with balances between $7,000 and $10,000. 14 households have $10,000 or more.
Franklin County's top household has $17,316 on its card. The highest in Ohio: $20,902 in one Cuyahoga county household.
While some Ohioans wait months to get food assistance, others are going for months adding food benefits they don't need. The bill announced Wednesday does not confront that issue. Lawmakers see it as a first step and hope the Congressional Agriculture Committee will approve changes to how food benefits balances are collected.
This past June, an audit of Ohio’s $2.5 billion SNAP program found system weaknesses that allow for benefits of the dead to be claimed, accounts to build excessive balances, questionable out-of-state transactions and other instances of potential fraud.
The Auditor’s Office estimates 5 percent – or $150 million of federal funds spent in Ohio go to the wrong people – either by fraud or poor oversight.
Maine and Massachusetts now require photo ID on SNAP cards. Massachusetts’ photo ID system cost $1.5 million to set up according to Auditor Yost.