State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Op Ed

Kicking Us When We’re Down

Requiring photo ID for FoodShare recipients will make it harder to get help.

By - Jan 25th, 2018 03:56 pm
Canned Food

Canned Food

The little girl walked home through the snow. She took the longer route. Mom asked her to stop at the store to buy milk. She touched the coupons and note. She couldn’t lose them. Mom was so sick with cancer.

Some little girl might be asked next year to show a photo ID to get milk. The Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations committee recently had a hearing on a bill to require those using FoodShare to show a photo ID. Advocates argued this would treat people in need of help in an undignified way, add unneeded bureaucracy and increase government expenses without reducing fraud.

FoodShare is Wisconsin’s version of the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.” SNAP has the strongest program integrity, or fraud prevention, standards of any federal program. For example, the old Food Stamp program used paper coupons. Under President Clinton, states moved to a plastic card that operates like a debit card, dramatically cutting down on fraud.

On average, eligible families receive $1.39 per person per meal, according to recent testimony from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. People often are on the program for a short time. A Department of Agriculture study found a little more than half of new participants stay on SNAP for less than a year.

In Wisconsin, a quarter of recipients are elderly, blind or have a disability. Forty-three percent are children. Forty percent have jobs. During the hearing, we learned the state worked hard to reduce fraud and now has an accuracy rate (benefits properly going to those eligible) of ninety-nine percent.

Efforts made to fix problems in FoodShare included reducing the many errors made by those working in the system. Wisconsin had a history of being a state with one of the highest error rates in the nation. Changes made under Governor Doyle resulted in bonus payments for improvements. However, problems remained.

Audits conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) found problems with the Department of Health (DHS) oversight of the FoodShare program. Prisoners were still receiving benefits, reports showing fraud were not being read or acted upon, and fraud investigators were woefully understaffed. State work was sent to private companies in violation of federal law.

DHS responded with many changes. Workers can now verify social security numbers in real time. This process helped eliminate prison inmates who continued to receive benefits.

Selling or buying a card is illegal. DHS maintains a Trafficking Enforcement and Audit Unit that reviews the details of requests for replacement of lost cards. This unit identifies vendor (grocery store) fraud. It works with local agencies to share fraud-related data and conducts fraud and misuse audits. In addition, an Investigation and Technical Assistance Unit follows up on calls to the fraud hotline among many other aspects of fraud investigation.

This work paid off. Last spring, DHS announced two people were facing criminal charges for FoodShare fraud. One man requested 13 cards in 12 months. The data obtained by our system showed purchases made by multiple people using the man’s personal ID number.

The Department reported in 2016 that almost 1400 people were suspended from the program compared to 203 in 2012. Of those, 113 resulted in criminal prosecution. The new system was put in place in 2013.

Photo IDs for SNAP is not a new idea. In fact, many states tried to require photo IDs and stopped. Missouri stopped using photo IDs in 2001 because they did not show significant cost savings. Massachusetts abandon the program under Governor Romney. One problem is that federal rules require that SNAP beneficiaries not be treated differently at a grocery story. This means stores would be required to ask EVERYONE for an ID.

The program is expensive. To start the program would cost over $7.5 million and another $1.6 million as ongoing costs.

Getting assistance to those who need it and getting rid of fraud are goals we all share. But let’s be smart about the rules. Unnecessary or politically motivated rules result in wasted dollars and fewer folks signing up who truly need help.

Long-term studies show the supplemental nutrition program resulted in marked reduction in serious nutrition problems among children. My family and I are part of the success story. The little girl in the story was me.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, is a member of the Wisconsin state Senate.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

24 thoughts on “Op Ed: Kicking Us When We’re Down”

  1. Terry says:

    Republican philosophy in a nutshell…Afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable. The exact opposite of what Jesus taught!

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump all Republicans 2018!

  2. Troll says:

    Photo ID should be attached to all Disable vehicles as well. How will your story go now Vinehout. Mother has cancer and cannot go get milk at local grocery store. She asks her 10 year old daughter to drive to grocery store for some milk. 10 year old Child parallel parks on eighth and Wisconsin to visit local liquor store. Child gets Hennessey.

  3. Terry says:

    @Troll, what on earth are you blathering about?

  4. Troll says:

    Terry, if ID on food stamps goes through who will bother me at the local grocery store. There is $50( food stamp card) on my card and I will sell it to you for $25. Who will push their food stamps on me. Who will make a deal with the local liquor store? I will give you my food allotment for some Hennesey. Most Wisconsinites are not stupid. Let Vinehout spin her sad tale.

  5. TransitRider says:

    Troll, do you understand how a food stamp card works? It’s like a debit card. As you use the benefit (swipe it at checkout), money is taken out and then once a month money is remotely added. So, even without photo ID there is no way somebody would sell the card itself because doing so would be mean giving up lots of future benefits.

    The only way somebody can sell their food stamp benefits today is by re-selling groceries after purchase or by shopping with somebody else and paying for their groceries. Photo ID wouldn’t change that at all.

  6. PMD says:

    He lives in Glendale. He doesn’t encounter people trying to sell him food stamps. He has no idea what he’s talking about. When it’s convenient, he bashes poor people. When it’s convenient, he acts like he’s a champion of the poor. He’s just a Troll.

  7. Guy4Life says:

    Why don’t we ,as a caring community, help the poor get IDs, instead of wasting time complaining about people having to get IDs.
    If the poor all had IDs, they would get their food and maybe they could vote Walker out. Win. Win. Everybody’s happy.

  8. MKE Kid says:

    How does one “sell” FoodShare benefits? The FoodShare card works exactly like a debit card. To use the card, it gets swiped it at the checkout and a PIN needs to be entered. The amount gets deducted from a monthly balance. If anyone is foolish enough to loan their card to anyone else and give them their PIN, they will be kicked off the program forever and face legal action.

    Troll, with those facts in mind, please educate us what inventive scheme you have cooked up to share with us how one of those nasty poor people can cheat on their benefits?

  9. Chuck says:

    How does one “sell” FoodShare benefits?

    By selling the card and then requesting a replacement. Or taking the card to a dishonest merchant who will run it and give the customer cash, while keeping a cut for themselves. It happens all the time. A coworker of mine always brings in snacks for everybody. Once she brought in more than usual and told me she bought a $200 QUEST Card for like $70. She said she didn’t feel bad because if she didn’t buy it the person selling it would have no problem finding someone else.
    Here’s a link

  10. Tim says:

    I thought Walker proposed that all food stamp recipients had to wear a scarlet letter or was it a gold star pinned to their jacket.

    It’s so hard to keep up with the news.

  11. Tim says:

    That’s kind of a problem with food stamps. You can’t pay your rent with food stamps.

  12. Terry says:

    Troll is just bringing up the tired, old and thoroughly debunked “republican bogeyman” of all these “loafers, layabouts and moochers” scamming the system while they, the “true Americans” are out there working everyday. Pshaw! It’s not true and people are waking up to this, and other tried and true republican tactics to divide and conquer people along, racial, ethnic, socio-economic lines, by scapegoating and blaming the poor and downtrodden. Republicans afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable, to their political advantage! Kick the poor, powerless and suffering on one side and take tons of out of state cash from mega rich donors that want to turn Wisconsin in Wississipp on the other, of course all while mooching for decades off the Big Government dole themselves.

    Newsflash Troll! Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans are the biggest Big Government moochers in the state! Fact: Walker has never worked a day in his adult life in the private sector or “free market” he purports to cherish. And now this charlatan wants to be “Governor for Life?” Let’s give career politician Walker a chance to get a “real job” for once!

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump Vos 2018!
    Dump Fitzegerald 2018!
    Dump all republicans 2018!

  13. Terry says:

    Career politician Scott Walker and republicans are public servants and taxpayers’ money is a sacred trust. Thus Walker and all republicans supporting his “blame and scapegoat the poor” policies should themselves be drug tested for all the tax payer money they have received just like the poor and disabled he wants to drug test for food. If career politician Walker and republicans don’t agree…Well what do they have to hide?

  14. Terry says:

    Chuck and Troll need to stop believing everything they see or read on Bretbart or Fox News. These organizations are “perpetual outrage machines.” They are working iniquity and stoking enmity in our society. Welfare fraud is in fact, at historic lows. Why do republicans repeatedly fall for such tactics of hate and division? Thriving blue states are, afterall heavily subsidizing the poor, struggling red states. Why? Because progressives know. He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.

  15. Chuck says:

    I was just correcting Transit Rider’s false assertion and answering MKE Kid’s question. Who’s blathering on now.

  16. Terry says:

    @Chuck. Just you. I hope you find some peace in your heart and life.

  17. Troll says:

    Terry wants us to be like California where 12 percent or 4.5 million are on SNAP. No strings attached no work requirement. No incentive to give young people a job just drugs and crime.

  18. Troll says:

    PMD, the Picknsave on Green Bay and Silverspring is not Camelot. If I can just recall what word Trump used to describe the dysfunctional country Haiti. It escapes me but PicknSave in Glendale = Haiti.

  19. TransitRider says:

    Chuck, the problem for which you provided a link (a store that swiped SNAP cards without selling anything, splitting the proceeds 50/50 with the card holder) wouldn’t get fixed by requiring a photo ID (the topic of this article).

    The other problem (falsely claiming a stolen card after you or somebody else has emptied it) is a red flag for investigators and is likely to get you kicked off food stamps (or arrested).

  20. Thomas says:

    The old myth of the WELFARE QUEEN, who drove a brand new Cadillac from state to state to score illicit benefits comes back to mind. Some now sainted politicians got a lot of traction from that myth. No such queen or car was ever discovered. It could take the entire welfare population of 3 Great Lakes states to fleece the taxpayers of WI out of the amount that Foxconn could fleece from them.

  21. PMD says:

    Nice racism Troll. I am at that pick n save on a regular basis. It is not at all like you describe. I have never had a single problem or unpleasant experience there save for once. A young white girl overdosed in the parking lot about a year ago. That’s it in six years of going to that store. You are wrong and racist.

  22. Chuck says:

    @TransitRider “The other problem (falsely claiming a stolen card after you or somebody else has emptied it) is a red flag for investigators and is likely to get you kicked off food stamps (or arrested).”

    You don’t have to claim it got stolen, you claim that you used it and then lost it and need a replacement.

    You said
    “The only way somebody can sell their food stamp benefits today is by re-selling groceries after purchase or by shopping with somebody else and paying for their groceries”
    which is false.
    I was just correcting that, not whether a photo ID would fix anything.

    “According to the data available, DHS says it has managed to save more than $2 million by making sure state prisoners aren’t receiving food stamps. The state has also sent out 1,739 letters to benefit recipients who are suspected of fraud because they’ve asked for more than six Quest card replacements in a year’s time.”

    Yes this was in 2014 but as you can see many people received a letter telling them to stop, they didn’t get arrested or kicked off the program. Maybe something’s changed since then but fraud still exists.

  23. Terry says:

    @Chuck, um, sorry, links to fake news stories and lies from Fox News aren’t credible at all. Why don’t you stop blaming the poor, disenfranchised and downtrodden for your problems in life. It’s not their fault. It’s yours. Take some personal responsibility for once republicans. Stop scalegoating those born into entrenched povery and hopelessness, be it in the trailer parks or the ghettos.

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump All corrupt Wisconsin republican liars, cheats and scoundrels in 2018!

  24. Terry says:

    @Troll. No, wrong again. I want you and all republicans to stop scapegoating and blaming the poor and downtrodden for your own failings and problems in life. It’s called ” taking personal responsibilty republicans.” Look into it! It’s not the poor guy on SNAP’s fault your life sucks. I want republicans to stop afflicting the afflicted and comforting the comfortable. That’s the opposite of what Jesus taught!
    Hitler blamed the Jews. Republicans blame the poor, both to their own political advantage. “It’s their fault!” they scream!
    You are being played Troll, Chuck, WaCoRepub, WCD and all republicans and you don’t know it. They got you all riled up and frothing while they point their fingers at those born into poverty and hopelessness .
    Here’s a life lesson Republicans.
    Nothing good comes from dehumanizing people.

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