Requiring food stamp recipients to use photo identification with their purchases: a safeguard against fraud, or a way to shame the poor?

A new bill requiring photo identification for food stamp recipients proposed by two Republican legislators, has drawn a line between those that believe it is simply anti-fraud protection and those that feel it perpetuates a sense of poverty.

Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, introduced the bill and is currently circulating it for cosponsors in the Assembly. If passed into law, electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, cards issued to FoodShare participants would include photo identification.

Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, is the chair of the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform. He said the main purpose of the bill, like other bills reforming public benefits, is to highlight fraud in public assistance programs like FoodShare. Photo ID would help “crack down” on those using cards that are not theirs, Born said.

“The bill would help in our efforts in Wisconsin and I think across the nation to stop waste, fraud and abuse in these public benefits systems,” Born said.

Born said the bill is simple and short, just a page and a half of instructions for the Department of Health Services, including the submission of an implementation plan for the photo ID plan to the United States Department of Agriculture. The bill’s Senate co-sponsor is Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

Mike Browne, deputy director of liberal group One Wisconsin Now, said the bill does nothing to reduce poverty and contributes to a culture of shaming the poor.

“Putting additional hurdles in people’s way or shaming people for having lost their job through no fault of their own and having to be on public assistance doesn’t help them find a job and it doesn’t make them any less poor,” Browne said.

Browne said he understands the desire to make sure people who are on public benefits are getting the assistance they need and those who do not need assistance are not exploiting the system.

But Brown said requiring photo identification on EBT cards is not a move toward that ideal.

“Singling out folks with different and harsher treatment is not going to help solve any problems,” Brown said.

The most recent fiscal estimate projects an estimated $7 million, split between state and federal funds, to start the program. Born said he does not expect the bill to face a lot of opposition in the Legislature, where Republicans have a majority in both the Assembly and the Senate.

Born said the plan might face obstacles when DHS goes to the USDA to get a waiver to implement the project. The federal government must approve the program and agree to partial funding before the program can go into place.

Browne said this bill is not the only of its kind — Republicans also recently pushed a bill that would require passing a drug test to be eligible for certain public benefits. He said the bill is a distraction from Walker’s budget, which Browne said is flawed in its severe cuts to state strongholds.