Right-Wing Media Defend Maine's EBT Photo ID Requirement To Hype SNAP Fraud Myths

Right-wing media have championed photo ID requirements on EBT cards for Maine residents who receive food stamp benefits, claiming high levels of waste and fraud. But in reality, Maine's SNAP program is not rampant with fraud and such photo identification measures have proved inefficient in other states.

Maine Implements SNAP Photo ID Requirements

Bangor Daily News: Maine Implements “Rule Requiring Photo Identification On State-Issued Welfare Benefit Cards. According to a July 30 report from the Bangor Daily News, ” nearly all of the roughly 223,000 active EBT cards circulating in Maine" will have to be reissued to include a photo of the recipient on the card. The News noted that “Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been a staunch proponent of the photo ID requirement for EBT cardholders,” and he claimed that the policy is needed to deter fraud. [Bangor Daily News, 6/30/14]

Right-Wing Media Use Maine EBT Photo ID Measures To Push Myth Of SNAP Fraud

Fox's Kilmeade: Maine Is Requiring Photo ID For Food Stamp Benefits Because The State Is “Spending Too Much Money” On “Ineligible People. During the November 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmeade hosted National Review's Jillian Melchior to discuss the state's efforts at “welfare reform.” Evidencing the need for the measures by claiming that the state was “spending too much money” on food stamps for “ineligible people,” Kilmeade asked “what's the problem here?” Melchoir claimed that public benefits fraud was a “huge problem” and that the photo identification requirement is just “a common sense measure.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/25/14]

National Review's Melchior: Gov. LePage's Photo ID Measures Allowed State To “Cut Back On Fraud Abuse.” In an October 17 post, National Review's Jillian Melchoir praised Maine Governor Paul LePage's actions, claiming that his EBT photo identification measures have allowed the state to “cut back on fraud abuse” totaling "$3.7 million a year." [National Review Online, 10/17/14]

But SNAP Fraud Remains Low In Maine And Nationwide

Department Of Health And Human Services Official: SNAP Fraud Rate Of Less Than 1 Percent In Maine Is “Likely About The Same” As Rest Of The Country. According to a February 2013 article from the Portland Press Herald, the $3.7 million a year of fraud in the state is “likely about the same” amount of fraud as experienced nationwide, or about 1 percent:

The request was one anti-fraud measure proposed by Gov. Paul LePage. Federal officials have estimated the level of welfare fraud nationwide at 1 percent of the $75 billion program, $750 million a year.

The level of fraud in Maine is likely about the same, amounting to about $3.7 million a year in a $372 million program, said DHHS spokesman John Martins. [Portland Press Herald, 2/15/14]

USDA: SNAP Fraud Rates Have “Dropped Dramatically” Over “Last Two Decades.” According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the rate of program fraud, or trafficking rates, have “dropped dramatically” over “the last two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993, to about 1 cent in 2006-08 (most recent data available).” [U.S. Department of Agriculture, accessed 11/25/14]

Furthermore, EBT Photo ID Programs Have Proved Inefficient In Other States

Tennessee Department Of Human Services: Other States' EBT Photo ID Requirements Have Had High Costs And Little Impact On Fraud. According to a January report from the Tennessee Department of Human Services which examined, implemented and proposed photo identification requirements for EBT programs, most states saw high associated costs and little impact on fraud. The report noted that states such as New York “determined that photographs on EBT cards did not deter fraud,” and in Missouri “mandating photographs on EBT cards did not generate enough savings for the program to be continued.” [Tennessee Department Of Human Services, 1/15/14]

Bangor Daily News: Other Photo ID EBT Programs “Failed As A Fraud Deterrent.According to a May 9 editorial by Maine's Bangor Daily News, other states which have implemented photo identification measures attached to their EBT programs have seen little fraud deterrent and have been met with high costs:

In the Bay State, which started implementing its requirement at the end of 2013, the photo requirement doesn't even apply to about half of the state's EBT cards. More than 45 percent of the state's households that receive food stamp benefits have members who are elderly or disabled.

Massachusetts estimates it will spend $5 million-$7 million to fully implement its photo requirement for EBT cards and $4.4 million annually on an ongoing basis. Yet the state has already found the photo requirement to be a wasteful use of public resources meant to help low-income people escape poverty.

In 2004, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney's administration terminated a previous EBT photo requirement that took effect in the late 1990s after determining it resulted in no savings for taxpayers, carried high administrative costs and failed as a fraud deterrent. In Missouri, a state audit came to the same conclusion in 2001, and that state has nixed its photo rule. [Bangor Daily News, 5/9/14]