CONTRIBUTORS

Look at the numbers: Study shows photos on benefit cards don’t prevent fraud

Posted May 26, 2014, at 3:26 p.m.
George Danby | BDN

Sam Adolphsen’s May 14 OpEd claiming photos on EBT cards deter fraud provides no factual proof to support his argument. It defies logic why anyone would spend a large sum of money without investigating the viability of the belief “photos on EBT cards will help deter [fraud],” since most people prefer facts before spending tax dollars on questionable programs.

For instance, the Tennessee Department of Health and Human Services published a study in 2014 that examined the experience several states had with photo IDs on benefit cards. The study found among the states surveyed that ID programs were expensive and did not deter or stop fraud.

Adolphsen touts the fact that administration added eight new fraud investigators and kicked off a fraud hotline for the public to report instances of fraud. But while he says referrals increased drastically, he doesn’t mention the conviction rate. We know many tips can be misleading or provide inadequate details.

Adolphsen’s claim “arguments against photos … are weak” is, in fact, weak. I sent a copy of the Tennessee DHHS study to Democrats in the Maine House and Senate, as well as their staff members, who expressed gratitude for the facts being brought to their attention. An argument is not “weak” when it is backed by facts. This assisted their reasoning in opposing photos on EBT cards.

Additionally, Adolphsen’s statement that Democrats “reject fighting welfare fraud” is without merit. Democrats and Republicans want to use taxpayer dollars wisely. But it is the LePage administration that increased its general fund spending on the fraud investigation unit by more than $700,000 each year. Is it likely the state will get this money back? Surely there are less expensive technological alternatives that could generate better outcomes.

It’s true, as Adolphsen said, we strive for zero fraud, just like we strive for zero errors. But how does Adolphsen think photos on EBT cards will deter fraud if multiple people in a household are allowed to use the same card? He says photos will cause people “to think twice” about selling their cards. But where is his research? The facts show putting photos on EBT cards is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

We don’t know if data released by LePage in January, showing places where people used their benefits, actually prove instances of fraud. But if people did use their EBT benefits at an ATM and used the cash to purchase a prohibited item, such as alcohol, how would a photo ID have changed anything? It adds evidence photos do not stop fraud — people do.

Given the Tennessee DHHS study and others, the question is, Why would anyone pursue EBT photos when they know it does not deter fraud, and the tax dollars used take away much needed dollars from the working poor and their children?

Jarryl Larson is a small business consultant from Edgecomb and has served on several IT design teams.

SEE COMMENTS →

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business