YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Earlier this month, Ohio Auditor David Yost announced he wants to add photo identification to food stamp cards in the state to curb fraud. The measure is being met with support and criticism.
The Ohio Access card is used for food purchases for the month and is reloaded every 30 days. Clients enter a pin number at the cash register much like a debit card.
In Mahoning County alone, the program costs $40 million per month and serves 35,000 households.
While adding a photo I.D. to the card would be an extra layer of identity security, Robert Bush, director of Mahoning County Job and Family Services, says it would have minimal impact and would be another obstruction for clients, especially senior citizens who don’t drive. Bush said many times elderly clients will call on a family member who may not be an authorized representative to shop for them.
“That may cause some problems and it ends up being a hardship on our client,” Bush said.
The legislation would exempt adults who have a disability, are age 60 or older, are a victim of domestic violence or have religious exemptions to being photographed. Also, Yost said multiple photo ID cards could be issued to one account.
Bush adds that adding a photo could slow down the process for those trying to cheat the system. He said the major way fraud happens in Mahoning County is when someone sells their food stamp card for money.
Michael Rulli, owner of Rulli Brothers grocery stores, said 15 percent of all sales at his store come from the Ohio Access Card. He doesn’t think adding a photo would take any extra time in the checkout line.
“They are looking at the card anyway to make sure it is a legitimate Ohio Direction Card so having a photo on there isn’t going to take any extra time,” Rulli said. “Maybe this extra step would eliminate 100 percent fraud, which would be incredible.”
Yost said an audit last of Ohio’s $2.5 billion food stamps program found weaknesses that would be alleviated with a photo ID. He said the food stamp error rate, which includes administrative errors and fraud, is nearly 5 percent or $125 million.