More BREAKING: Feds Warn LePage Admin Stop EBT Photo ID Rollout, Else Risk Lawsuits, Loss of $$$

Posted on April 25, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Whoopsie. Via Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office:

Feds warn state to stop rollout of EBT photo identification until further review
USDA says not doing so brings threats of lawsuits and loss of funding

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today voiced her agreement with concerns raised in a letter the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) sent to the state regarding plans to require ID photos on EBT cards.

chellie

    “The USDA’s letter is another message that adding this burden on families and retailers is not the right direction for the state. It doesn’t do anything to prevent fraud, but it does make it harder for people to access the benefits they need to feed their families,” said Pingree. “The USDA clearly said that the state opens itself to a number of risks if it goes forward with this plan, including possible litigation and loss of federal funding. I hope the state takes this as an opportunity to reconsider its plans.”

The letter states that the state has not given USDA enough time to determine whether the state’s implementation plan adequately addresses the agency’s concerns, including whether safeguards are adequate to protect beneficiaries’ rights and how effectively retailers have been notified of changes.

    “Therefore, Maine should delay any implementation until FNS can fully review and approve the State’s plan,” USDA said in its letter. “Given the risk of losing Federal financial participation, as well as the risk for litigation against the State should the State’s implementation of the photo EBT card violate provisions of the Food and Nutrition Act or SNAP regulations, Maine should not rush into implementation.”

Earlier today, Pingree spoke with USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon to voice her concerns about the state’s plans and to ask the agency to give them a thorough review.

Here is the letter:

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One Response to “More BREAKING: Feds Warn LePage Admin Stop EBT Photo ID Rollout, Else Risk Lawsuits, Loss of $$$”

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Maine Equal Justice Partners issued a statement:

LePage Plans Put Help for Hungry Mainers At-Risk

AUGUSTA – In a strongly worded letter today to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned the LePage administration that efforts to require a photo on EBT cards could put in jeopardy federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

“With its letter, the Department of Agriculture makes clear that the LePage administration is moving too quickly,” said Sara Gagné-Holmes, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, a civil legal aid organization that advocates for low-income Mainers. “If Gov. LePage moves forward with his politically motivated effort to place photographs on EBT cards, he will jeopardize tens of thousands of federal dollars used to help administer a program that feeds thousands of Mainers, including children and seniors.”

Leading anti-hunger organizations, faith communities, emergency food pantries and low-income people have responded with alarm to this initiative. There are significant concerns that the plan may violate key provisions in federal law protecting access to program benefits. Today they join in thanking the federal government for stepping forward to slow down this dangerous proposal.

“Maine has the 3rd highest rate of hunger in the nation and one in four Maine children are food insecure,” said Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street, the largest soup kitchen provider in the state of Maine. “Every day we see hundreds of hungry and desperate people at our soup kitchens. If the state moves forward with this initiative, it could prevent working families and others that we serve from getting the small but important amount of food assistance that helps them through the month. Given this dire situation, Maine should be leading efforts to maximize successful food supplement programs, not making it harder for children and their families to get adequate nutrition.”

Although the governor describes this new initiative as a tool to fight fraud, the Food and Nutrition Service that oversees this federal program disagrees. The agency has publically discouraged states from putting photos on EBT cards citing risk to program access for beneficiaries and stating clearly that it is not an effective anti-fraud measure.

“This issue is fraught with risk,” said Chris Hastedt of Maine Equal Justice Partners. “Our concerns are increased by the speed with which the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has proposed to implement this initiative, the lack of any opportunity for public comment, and the agency’s failure to follow established rulemaking procedures under Maine’s Administrative Procedures Act. These are all steps that are typically taken before implementing a change of this magnitude. It is nothing short of reckless to shortcut these procedures when something as basic as food and hunger are at stake. The federal government’s action today recognizes these risks.”

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