USDA Releases Final Photo EBT Rule

The final rule was published guiding states that want to place a photo ID on EBT cards. The rule can be read in its entirety HERE, and becomes effective January 12, 2017. The following information was sent to MGFPA from NGA on the final rule:

The Food and Nutrition Act and SNAP regulations allow a state agency to require that an EBT card contain a photo of one or more members of a household if the state agency can also establish procedures to ensure that any other appropriate member of the household or any authorized representative (including individuals permitted by the household to purchase food or meals on its behalf) may utilize the card, regardless of whether or not they are pictured. No other forms of required identification, other than a photo on the EBT card, are authorized by the Act or regulations for redeeming SNAP benefits.

Federal law requires that all members of the household and authorized representatives be able to use the EBT card, and EBT cards do not have to picture or identify all of the individuals authorized to use the card. Therefore, requiring a photo on the card would not give the retailer useful information to determine whether the individual presenting the card is authorized to use the card or not. Knowledge of the unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) associated with each card is what authorizes an individual to use the card and provides protection against fraudulent use of the card.

Requesting additional identification would single out SNAP recipients and is a violation of the equal treatment regulation, because retailers are required to treat SNAP customers as they would non-SNAP customers. Further, requiring additional forms of identification to use the card would not give the retailer the necessary information to determine whether the individual presenting the card is authorized to use it. The unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) associated with each card establishes this authorization.

Overview of Changes in the Final Rule:

  • Clarify that States must issue both the benefits and EBT card without delay in accordance with SNAP application processing standards, whether or not a photo is on the card.
  • Clarify that expedited households are exempt from a mandatory photo EBT card policy until the next recertification.
  • Clarify that States may not charge households card replacement fees for any card issued as part of the photo EBT card option implementation.
  • Clarify that households have the right to authorize other individuals to use the household’s EBT card on an ad hoc basis for the purpose of attaining assistance with purchasing food, whether or not the State has a photo EBT requirement.
  • Specify that Implementation Plans must also include:
    The text that will be added to EBT cards to state that anyone with a valid PIN may use the card even if he/she is not pictured on the card;
    Procedures for opting into a voluntary photo EBT card policy and documenting that a household voluntarily chose to have a photo on its EBT;
    Communication plans for educating and notifying clients and retailers of the State’s photo EBT card policy.
  • Limit State responsibilities for retailer education on photo EBT cards to the implementation phase. For newly authorized retailers, FNS will update retailer training materials as the agency would for any new requirements affecting SNAP retailer operations.
  • Remove the provision requiring SNAP retailers to ask for identification from SNAP customers using three or more EBT cards at once for purchases and to report that information to the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Fraud Hotline if fraud is suspected.