Lawmakers advance bill requiring photographs to be printed on EBT cards

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee, on Thursday, advanced their substitute for a bill which seeks to require photographs to be placed on EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards. 

As explained by Committee Counsel Cindy Dellinger, “The purpose of this bill (SB 450) is to require, beginning on June 1, 2024, that Electronic Bank Transfer cards – or EBT cards – have a photograph of the holder on the card.”

Dellinger further noted that, “There is no fiscal note associated with the bill.”

Sen. Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, is the original sponsor of SB 450. While the committee substitute maintains the primary intent of the bill, it changes the proposed effective date from June 1, 2024, to July 1, 2025. 

During questioning, Sen Laura Chapman, R-Ohio, inquired as to both the purpose, and overall facilitation of adding photos to EBT cards. 

Sen. Laura Chapman, R-Ohio, during Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.

“The language says it’s to aid in combating fraud,” Chapman said. “Say somebody comes to the grocery store with somebody else’s EBT card, and they’re not part of the household or not authorized, what other than reporting that person will that photo – is there an ID that will have to go with that EBT card?”

Dellinger replied that while the photograph will assist with identification, limitations do still exist. Dellinger further explained that “authorized users” would be permitted to use a card with another individual’s photograph, however the Department of Human Services would be required to establish the rules governing such card usage. This was the reason behind the committee’s attempt to push back the effective date of the bill through their substitute.

When a question was raised by Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, as to the cost of adding photographs, Committee Chair Michael Maroney, R-Marshall, expressed his intention to refer the bill to the Senate Finance Committee for further review. Still, while an exact amount could not be provided for the cost of EBT cards with photographs, Office of Shared Administration EBT Director Jacquelyn Hoppe advised committee members that such cards would cost approximately $6 each. 

“My concern is that if we require a photo, will somebody else in the household who’s authorized be denied?” Chapman then asked. 

The answer, according to Hoppe, is “two-fold.”

“From an FNS (Food and Nutrition Service) standpoint, they can’t be denied if they present the card and have the correct pin because they’ve been authorized to use that card by the actual primary,” Hoppe said. “They’re probably a person in the household.”

“The retailers, on the other hand, have a different aspect to look at,” Hoppe continued. “Retailers can’t discriminate against anybody who presents an EBT card. Hence the reason why we try to make them look like a Bank of America card, or any other card – so they’re not called out as using a card like that.”

Office of Shared Administration EBT Director Jacquelyn Hoppe during Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.

“So if they have a card with a photo, or if they have a pin, the retail chain isn’t able to make any changes,” Hoppe added. “They have to accept it. It really doesn’t make a difference.”

Hoppe further noted that “where it does make a difference is allowing us to use cards that are protected.”

“The photo ID can’t be enforced,” Hoppe said. “The retail person can’t say, ‘Well, your picture’s not on this card.’ […] If they present a viable card, they have to be honored.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, committee members voted unanimously to approve Maroney’s desire to refer the bill to the Finance Committee before advancing to the full Senate. RealWV will provide updates regarding the committee substitute for SB 450 as additional information is made available. 

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