Opposition to Senate Bill 624—Photo ID Requirement for FoodShare Cards

Chairperson Kapenga and Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to share the concerns of our organization, Kids Forward, about Senate Bill 624.

Kids Forward aspires to make Wisconsin a place where every child thrives by advocating for effective, long-lasting solutions that break down barriers to success for children and families. Using research and a community-informed approach, Kids Forward works to help every child, every family, and every community thrive.

We oppose SB 624 because putting photo IDs on FoodShare cards would be costly and inefficient, and it would impede legitimate use of cards by seniors, people who have disabilities, or others who need to have a friend or family member purchase food for them. As a result, it would increase hunger in our state.

The proposed requirement to show a photo ID card is inconsistent with federal law. As the Department of Health Services’ fiscal estimate indicates, federal regulations allow states to require cards to include a photo ID, but they do not allow states to preclude the use of a card by people who are not pictured on the card.

The DHS fiscal estimate indicates that enactment of the bill would result in initial implementation costs of about $7.6 million and ongoing annual costs of about $1.6 million. On top of those costs, there’s the risk of federal fines for violating the federal regulations relating to photo ID cards. In view of those costs and risks, there are much more cost-effective and less cumbersome ways to reduce improper use of FoodShare cards.

As the Hunger Task Force has pointed out, the payment error rate for Wisconsin’s FoodShare program has declined from about 12.8% in 2008 to less than 2.6% in 2014. A photo ID card will do little, if anything, to improve on that record since it is lawful for other people to purchase food for a FoodShare participant. In addition, the small use of stolen or purchased cards is sometimes done with the assistance of a retailer, and the photo ID would have no impact on that problem. In light of all of this, a more cost-effective alternative is for the state to continue to improve its efforts to identify retailers who are allowing stolen or purchased cards to be used.

In addition to being expensive and cumbersome, the photo ID requirement will create additional stigma for people who are eligible for FoodShare benefits. The ID requirement is also likely to depress the use of FoodShare by people who cannot easily go to a welfare office to be photographed.

It is estimated that each federal dollar spent on FoodShare benefits generates $1.70 in economic activity in a state—one of the highest multipliers among all federal expenditures. That does not mean that states should not take actions to minimize fraudulent or improper use of FoodShare benefits, but it does mean that states shouldn’t create impediments that deter lawful uses of FoodShare benefits, while doing little to further reduce the fraudulent use of those cards.

FoodShare is a critically important program for about one in six Wisconsinites. We urge you not to impede their ability to get this much needed nutrition assistance.