Just in case anyone was unaware that Sidse Babett Knudsen has the best face in the world, here she is being brilliant and beautiful while being interviewed about Borgen by Clemency Burton-Hill at Zeitgeist Europe 2013.
Though a photo requirement was omitted from the 2014 farm bill, which contained several food stamp reforms, state lawmakers in Maine and Massachusetts have taken up the issue. Massachusetts started putting SNAP recipients’ photos on their electronic benefit transfer cards in 2013, prompting ongoing complaints from the USDA that the state is using the requirement to improperly cut benefits. A December letter from the USDA outlined “significant concerns with regards to client access to program benefits.” A key problem is that food stamp benefits typically go to entire households, meaning any family member is supposed to be able to use the household debit card, not just the person whose photo is on the card. The USDA has similar concerns about Maine’s new photo requirement and has threatened to cut administrative funding to the state.
So prior to the work I do now, I was an Americorp corp member. Which meant I spent 2 years doing a type of service work in exchange for a modest stipend that was a living wage and a standard education award that could only be given to an institution on my behalf. We were essentially paid poverty level wages. Another aspect, however, is that all Americorp members qualify for food stamps by nature of our low stipend and service work.
I remember when Massachusets transitioned to the photo ID card. It required me taking another morning off work, which I was incredibly privileged because Americorp employers understand that everyone is (potentially) on food stamps and (some) managers go out of their way to make sure you have food. I have spent more hours than I can count waiting in EBT lines.
While I am no longer a recipient, I barely ever had a cashier actually ever taking my EBT card in my hand and comparing it to my face. I feel like, in some ways, it must have just been a scare tactic. But I also went out of my way to avoid interaction that involved making my EBT card visible. Whenever possible I would go to self-checkout. I would just avoid entire stores just to avoid the stigma of being a visible food stamp recipient. I feel like actually requiring photo ID is just another measure that will continue to make SNAP recipients hyper visible and further stigmatize having food stamps. I think the goal is to either just eventually shame recipients into just not using the program at all or ensure that everyone else around knows exactly who has SNAP so that they can judge, criticize and memorize all aspects of their purchase. Soon we’ll be seeing more analysis of “things food stamps recipients waste taxpayers money on” and blogs dedicated to all the food people on food stamps don’t deserve to eat…