Legislation by Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) to limit the use of SNAP benefits, or food stamps, has returned with an amendment after failing in a Senate committee last month.
House Bill 1035 would forbid using SNAP benefits to purchase food the state Health Department deems unhealthy, such as soda. Bentley’s new amendment makes the bill even worse by also requiring beneficiaries to show a photo ID in order to use their SNAP card.
A blog post from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families explains why this idea is so misguided. The goal is evidently to cut down on fraud, but similar efforts in other states haven’t been shown to reduce fraud cases. Instead, a photo ID requirement would simply make life harder for poor people (and retailers too). Advocates writes:
What if you are in a pinch and need to ask a teenager or neighbor to run to the store for a carton of eggs while you watch an infant at home? That probably won’t be possible anymore with this new ID requirement. Younger family members who help out with grocery shopping are unlikely to have the identification required to make SNAP purchases under this amended bill. Elderly Arkansans who rely on the help of caregivers to make trips to the grocery store will also be out of luck with this bill. Low-income Arkansans already have a hard time getting grocery shopping done because they are more likely to live far away from a store, so this just adds to the hardship of living in a food desert.
Grocers will face more red tape. Federal guidelines require that when SNAP users present their EBT card (similar to a debit card) at a grocery store, they must be treated like every other customer. If you make grocers ask SNAP users for ID, they have to ask everyone for ID (goodbye self checkout!). Grocers are very unlikely to like this part of the bill.
Nor is this all Bentley is doing. She also adds burdensome eligibility and verification rules on food stamp recipients in this proposal. Compassion is in very short supply.