Photo ID on Maine EBT cards to begin April 28

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Maine EBT cardAUGUSTA – The state of Maine will begin putting photo identification on the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards used to disperse welfare benefits this month, according to a Friday press release from Gov. Paul LePage’s Department of Health and Human Service.

“Placing photos on the Maine EBT card supports this Administration’s efforts to strengthen the integrity of our public assistance programs,’’ said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

“The photo will also help our staff to verify the identity of the benefit recipient and will be helpful in cases where cards have been illegally sold or when multiple cards are in the possession of an individual,” she said.

According to the press release, DHHS will begin issuing new cards on April 28. Current cardholders can go to the Bangor DHHS office voluntarily to have their picture taken and all new cards will automatically include photo ID. Beginning in July, all regional offices will be equipped to take photos.

DHHS says that certain individuals will be exempt from the photo ID requirement, including “the disabled or blind and those 60 and over.”

Many other states, including New York and Massachusetts, already place photo ID on EBT cards.

The initiative will cost Maine taxpayers $165,922 to begin and $41,145 annually thereafter, according to DHHS.

The decision to implement the photo ID requirement follows a more than one-year long back and forth with federal officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that was not without controversy.

In March of 2013, LePage blasted President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for leaking information to U.S. Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree regarding his administrations application for a federal waiver that would allow for photo IDs on EBT cards. The letter denying LePage’s request was leaked to Michaud and Pingree and ultimately became a front page story in the Portland Press Herald, a newspaper owned by Pingree’s husband, S. Donald Sussman.

But this year, the USDA changed its tune, saying in a February letter that it was perfectly legal for Maine to implement the requirement so long as certain conditions were agreed to and followed.

The controversial change in DHHS policy also follows the Legislature’s rejection of four welfare reform bills backed by LePage and Republican lawmakers.

All four of the bills were aimed at reforming the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, a cash welfare program that is dispersed through EBT cards.

An investigation conducted by The Maine Wire in January found widespread abuse of the TANF program, including transactions in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as transactions at liquor stores, cigarette shops, amusement parks and strip clubs.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Number one: some of us don’t want to have our pictures on a card that tells the world we are poor. There’s no other identifying marks on those cards, no address, no phone number, just a name. Now- my face with be on it. so everyone knows which amanda martin is on welfare.
    Number two: I’m still guessing that the EBT card used at the ‘strip club’ was likely as not a single mom, who was working there and she needed to access her transportation funds to get home.

  2. Funny, lets go after the poor because EBT fraud makes up roughly 7% of all benefit transactions in the State… meanwhile corporate welfare rages with some of the biggest corporations not paying a cent in taxes! Lets stop attacking the most vulnerable citizens and go after those who abuse the system that costs US BILLIONS!

    I am a veteran and single father of three disabled boys. Their mother only sees them a few hours a week which was HER decision and doesn’t pay a cent in support. I cannot work because my kids need 100% supervision 24 hours a day. I rely on benefits to feed my family, I am not proud of it but I have no choice because I cannot work. Every time I hear Lepage talk about the poor as lazy or leeches I want to scream!

    It’s the old slight of hand trick: Don’t look at this hand where we are giving Corporations millions in tax breaks, LOOK WELFARE FRAUD!

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