COLUMBUS — After a 2015 audit into Ohio’s $2.5 million Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, a group of state legislators, including Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, and Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, has announced legislation aimed at curbing fraud in the program.
The audit found that weaknesses in Ohio’s SNAP program, which averaged 1.6 million participants in 2016, allowed benefits of deceased people being claimed, excessive account balances, and questionable out-of-state transactions.
“The error rate for the food stamp program in Ohio is almost 5 percent — which is too high,” Ohio Auditor Dave Yost said. “Today we are taking steps to address this issue with new legislation.”
The planned legislation would call for color photographs of the cardmember or at least one member of the cardholder’s household to be included on the front of every food stamp card, along with a telephone number and website on the back of the card where cashiers and store owners can report suspected fraud.
“We have a system that is collapsing in many ways, and this photograph idea, which is already allowed under federal law, will not solve every one of those problems, but it will solve a lot of the problems,” Huffman said. “This is one step, a relatively easy step, we can take to interrupt this and return legitimacy to some of these transactions.”
Exemptions would be made for adult household members who are 60 and older, have a disability, are victims of domestic violence or have religious objections to being photographed. Exemptions would also be made if the household does not include any adult members.
“I’m looking forward to working with Auditor Yost to address inefficiencies in the SNAP program while also ensuring that benefits are getting to those who need them,” Schaffer said. “No one will lose their benefits under this legislation, and it will help ensure that their benefits are not being abused by others through fraud or theft.”
Yost expressed optimism that these measures will help ensure that benefits are being used in the correct manner.
“I am grateful for Rep. Schaffer and Sen. Huffman’s interest and actions in strengthening Ohio’s SNAP program so we can ensure that available resources are going to those who need them most,” he said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.