Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jim Tracy Files Legislation Calling for Photos on EBT Cards Used for SNAP and TANF Benefits

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) has filed legislation requiring photos to be added to the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, the method used for delivering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to eligible Tennesseans.  The bill aims to deter theft and the selling or trafficking of the cards, while ensuring eligible Tennesseans continue to receive the assistance they need.

EBT is an on-line system in which SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, and cash assistance benefits are stored in a central computer database and electronically accessed by recipients at a point-of-sale machine via reusable plastic cards.  Families First, the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, uses EBT cards in transferring benefits to eligible recipients.

“Adding photos on Tennessee’s EBT cards will strengthen the integrity of our public assistance programs,” said Sen. Tracy.  “It protects benefits for those who are legally and legitimately receiving them.  At the same time, it helps detect criminal activity in EBT trafficking cases where cards are sold for cash or drugs, or when multiple cards are in the possession of an individual illegally.”

There are over one million SNAP recipients in Tennessee which costs about $2 billion in federal funds annually.   Currently, Maine and Massachusetts require that EBT cards contain photo identification.

Under the legislation, those who already receive benefits would be informed of the new requirement when their benefits are recertified.  A photo from the recipient’s driver’s license would be placed on the ETB card.  If the recipient does not have a driver’s license, a photo would be made upon certification or recertification of benefits.

The bill would also allow card holders to give a family member permission to purchase food on his or her behalf. As is the case currently, the PIN would be required in order for the purchase to be approved.

“This provision allows family members or others who are authorized by the card holder to use it to buy food or redeem eligible benefits,” added Sen. Tracy.  “So, a person who is ill or cannot leave their home will continue to receive their benefits.  However, having the photo on the card will give state authorities or law enforcement the tools they need to identify and prosecute fraud and abuse.”

Source: State Senate, State of Tennessee

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