Maine to put photo ID on EBT cards


ebt card

AUGUSTA – After heavy resistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last year, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is moving forward with an initiative to curb welfare fraud and abuse.

The USDA’s Associate Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has told DHHS Commissioner Mary Hayhew that the state can add photo identification to Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) cards so long as certain federal guidelines are met, according to a letter obtained by The Maine Wire.

Although Jessica Shahin of the USDA related several concerns about the initiative, the letter indicates that adding photo ID to EBT cards is permissible under federal law and will not cause Maine to lose federal SNAP funding.

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“The addition of photos to the EBT card, especially in a State that has never done so before, is a very sensitive issue for clients, advocates and retailers,” Shahin said in a Feb. 26 letter to Mayhew.

“Because of the complex legal, operational, and civil rights issues that have arisen around the implementation of photo EBT cards elsewhere, as well as the potential risk for litigation should something go wrong, [Food and Nutrition Service] FNS must work closely with DHHS to ensure that implementation is seamless and within the bounds of law and regulation,” said Shahin.

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In order to police Maine’s implementation of photo ID on EBT cards, the federal government has requested information indicating that the “photo EBT card process will not adversely affect day-to-day SNAP operations.”

The written plan Shahin asks for must include the following:

  • Timetable of specific action steps for implementing the requirement
  • Description of where and how photo cards will be produced
  • Identification of where existing photos will come from
  • Description of the “universe of clients and/or authorized representatives” that will be required to submit photos, and “persons who will be exempt from the photo requirement.”
  • Explanation of how DHHS will ensure federal laws and regulations are followed
  • Description of any client, retailer or community training DHHS will perform
  • Explanation of methods to be used to activate new cards and disable old ones
  • Resources in place to handle calls from clients or retailers and “unexpected events” related to photo EBT card issuance.

The letter outlines a number of bureaucratic hoops DHHS must jump through before implementing the photo ID requirement and asks for a report within 45 days. “It is essential that any action that will have a direct impact on clients, retailers or local DHHS staff is deferred until FNS has had the opportunity to review and approve the plan,” said Shahin.

A number of other states have placed photo ID on EBT cards, most notably the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Last year, Massachusetts State lawmakers passed the requirement into law in order to crack down on fraud and abuse in the welfare system. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick agreed to the measure as part of a budget bill he signed in July and the state began issuing the new EBT cards in November.

Critics of the Bay State initiative decried the measure as “victimizing” poor people while doing nothing meaningful to combat fraud.

Steve Robinson
Editor, Maine Wire



  1. This isn’t Maine anymore the Idiot Governor follows Massachuettes laws every chance he gets. Maine People should kick his Ass out of Office all he has done to the good people of Maine is ruin there lives.
    First the Fishing Industries then Business are closing all over the state because of him. UTC is leaving because of his tactics. He thinks he’s running Mardens and screwing the Customers. But he really knows He is Running Maine and Screwing the whole state and everyone that believes in Him. He is Nothing without the people of Maine so I say Get rid of him and his Cronnies that back him.

  2. how will this help??? What about people who have caregivers do their shopping for them ?? or a husband and wife who have a food stamp case together and only one of their names are on the card are they going to put both of their pictures on there I think not …. What the heck is Lepage and the other idiots in the maine government thinking …oh thats right they don’t think

  3. There is much fraud in this State, and much of it is not from the elderly, the poor people and honest people are the ones that gets hurt out of this deal. Prayfully it will not affect them as much as some think. We need to help those that are honest and many are not. If people only knew of the ones that are frauding the State, they would have a different outlook on the way Maine is handling this problem, I see it everyday. Personally they need to monitor those that use the card for items they should not be purchasing on the cash side…. It’s time people get off the system and get to WORK. Those that are complaining, must be on welfare. Keep doing what your’e doing Governor Lepage.

  4. My family receives SNAP benefits. It’s not always easy for me to go to the store, and my husband often stops for milk on his way home from work. MY name is the ONLY one on the card. How is he supposed to use the card that is for our benefits, if it’s my photo?
    Or what about when I have both my kids at home, and no car, and I ask my neighbor to go to the store for me? She’s kind enough to go get my necessities for me, rather than me and my 2 children walking all the way to the store in the freezing cold. They are really going to make it almost impossible for some people to use their cards. Did anyone consider any of these things in this decision?
    Finding a different way to scam won’t be hard for these people. “Oh, I can’t give you my card, but if you tell me what you want me to buy for you, I’ll buy it for you, and trade THAT for my drugs…” Problem solved… So really, what is this doing other than hurting those of us who DON’T abuse the system?

  5. This will do nothing to cut down on fraud, unfortunately. Retailers don’t look at these ebt cards when they are used. Shoppers swipe them themselves, and the cashier doesn’t. Unless there is a new mandate that all cards be “inspected” by the cashier every time they’re used, this will accomplish nothing.

  6. This is not a good start to help reform welfare fraud as it won’t be very effective and will hurt truly disabled persons who rely on someone else to shop for them, and therefore I think this is a complete waste of tax payers money. Any dishonest person can still shop at any store where their friends work who won’t check their new photo ID card so what is the point? Seriously this entire program needs more thought such as why not re- program the actual card so it doesn’t give cash back, it can only be used at grocery stores, and it rejects any purchases which are non-food with the exception of pre approved items such a toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste etc… Seems pretty simple to me so whats the hold up?

  7. This is a good start to help reform welfare fraud but it won’t be very effective and therefore I think a complete waste of tax payers money. Any dishonest person can still shop at any store where their friends work who won’t check their new photo ID card so what is the point? Seriously this entire program needs more thought such as why not re- program the actual card so it doesn’t give cash back, it can only be used at grocery stores, and it rejects any purchases which are non-food with the exception of pre approved items such a toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste etc… Seems pretty simple to me so whats the hold up?

  8. Personally, I believe SOMETHING’S gotta give here. I understand that it won’t solve all the problems, but everyone has to admit that there IS a problem here. I was employed at Hannaford Supermarkets for years. I would constantly deal with transactions where I REALLY had to bite my tongue. Using “Food” portion for milk, and then a second swipe for “Cash” for a half gallon of coffee brandy.. I enjoy a drink every now and then but I don’t expect it to be free, or to be paid for by taxpayers, AKA ME! Now I personally like the WIC program. It sets guidelines for which products are eligible for purchasing with the voucher; Which honestly should be the case for EBT recipients. I’m not saying that everyone buys crap with their benefits, but why would I want my taxes to pay for somebody to buy $40 worth of soda and candy? Trust me, I’ve seen it many times.. So with that said, I think it would be appropriate to instead of a plastic card, to distribute check vouchers for specific NUTRITIONAL items for benefit recipients. And if it becomes a problem with who’s name is on the check, have it set up so there is another (trustworthy) person’s name on it (i.e. spouse, caregiver, neighbor, etc.) to avoid fraud and misuse. As a young hard-working individual I’m seeing the world around me fall to pieces and we need to clean up our society with our poor financial management and our lack of financial distribution. Things are starting to hit the fan fast, I hope we can all “duck” in time.. Rant over.

  9. EBT stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer…it has a food supplement portion and a cash portion. The cash portion is sometimes made up of TANF or refugee benefits. Regardless, it’s a limited benefit amount. And it is currently up to the individual what they chose to spend that benefit on. I get that people use EBT cash benefits to buy beer or cigarettes. How is that really any of your business? The same people who go on and on about individual rights and “freedoms” are often the first to complain when somebody else’s freedom of choice conflicts with their opinions.

    Look at it another way. Say I get unemployment benefits. I deposit the money into my checking account and go to the store and buy a gallon of milk on EBT then use my debit card to by a fifth of Allen’s Coffee Brandy. Are you going to care? After all, aren’t those unemployment benefits supposed to go for other things? Or is it possible, just maybe, that we leave that decision up to the person directly effected by making that choice?

    The problem with the welfare system isn’t oversight or lack there of. It’s a basic lack of understanding about what leads us to need welfare programs. Instead of giving people money for food, perhaps we should pay livable wages? Or we could ensure that everyone has access to a free college education so they can get a job OTHER THAN at minimum wage. Consider the impact if we treated people as the solution, rather than treating them as a the problem…….it’s radical….

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