By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog
SPRINGFIELD — Another attempt to fight fraud by putting ID photos on Illinois’ food stamp cards looks doomed, but not because of political opposition inside the Capitol.
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association is making it clear to lawmakers that the gas stations, grocery stores, local shops don’t want to deal with the headaches or possible legal nightmare that might be created by adding pictures to LINK cards.
“Federal regulations require that stores treat SNAP customers no different than anyone else,” Robb Carr the executive vice president with the retail merchants said.
SNAP is the federal food assistance program, in Illinois SNAP recipients use a LINK card to buy their groceries.
“If you require a photo ID for a LINK card, then clerks across the state have to ask for ID anytime anyone wants to buy almost anything,” Carr added.
State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he does not want to create headaches for local stores, but he does want to crack down on fraud.
“The people I hear from most are the grocery clerks,” Rose said. “I had a gal in Chicago call me up and say she had two people using four cards, one for each from both Illinois and Indiana.”
Rose said he also hears from police and prosecutors who say they find LINK cards at drub houses all the time.
“In my area, the going rate for LINK cards is 50 cents on the dollar,” Rose added. “When you’re handing someone a couple hundred bucks a month, of taxpayer dollars, to go get their fix that isn’t helping them.”
Rose said he thought his proposal would be an easy way for clerks, at the point of sale, to make sure that the person using the LINK card is supposed to be using that card. The legislation would cover family members or care givers, Rose said that is a no-brainer.
But the legislation likely will never become law.
The Illinois Senate assigned Rose’s plan to a sub-committee, which is the same as being shelved for two years.
Senate Human Service Committee Chairwoman, state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, said Rose’s plan will eventually get a hearing. But she is clear she won’t support the plan.
“I don’t like the idea, a person is likely already embarrassed that they must accept food stamps,” Hunter said adding their picture is an attempt to shame LINK card holders.
Hunter also questions how much money it would cost the state to add pictures to LINK cards. U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers from October of 2012 show over 2 million people in Illinois received SNAP benefits.
Carr with the retailers said if Illinois wants to get photo ID’s attached to LINK card, lawmakers in Springfield should start by asking those in Washington to change the rules for everyone.
You can contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org
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