Proposed Bill Aims to Make Significant Changes to SNAP Benefit Cards

Lawmakers in the United States have introduced a bill to enhance the security of payment cards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). They are concerned that criminals may target these cards to exploit vulnerable low-income Americans.

Democratic Senators John Fetterman from Pennsylvania and Ron Wyden from Oregon have teamed up with Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana to introduce a new bill called the Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act. This legislation aims to require fraud-resistant chips for Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, which are used for SNAP payment cards.

SNAP benefits are provided to low-income households in the United States by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These benefits are intended to assist individuals in purchasing nutritious food that is essential for their overall health and well-being during their grocery trips.

The senators pointed out that the security protections for SNAP payment cards have not been updated in over a decade.

In a statement, Fetterman, who also chairs the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, expressed his concern over the targeting of vulnerable hungry families with cyber-crime scams. He emphasized the importance of protecting SNAP as a critical lifeline for nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians and stated that it is unacceptable to let families go hungry due to the actions of bad faith actors.

Wyden, a colleague from Oregon, proposed that SNAP payment cards should receive the same protections as credit cards.

“There is no justification for maintaining a two-tier system that leaves vulnerable families with obsolete and vulnerable technology, while those with credit and ATM cards enjoy better security,” he emphatically stated. “We cannot afford to remain idle and complacent, especially when the consequences may determine whether a struggling family has a meal on the table or goes hungry.”

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Democratic Congressman Andy Kim of New Jersey and Republican Congressman Mike Lawler of New York have introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

Cassidy emphasized the need to safeguard SNAP beneficiaries.

In a statement, he emphasized that SNAP is designed to assist individuals who are experiencing food insecurity, not to aid individuals who engage in fraudulent activities to obtain these benefits. The objective is to combat fraud while ensuring that the benefits are provided to those who are truly in need.

The bill will require the USDA to incorporate anti-fraud technology into the SNAP payment cards, with updates scheduled every five years. Additionally, the cards will be equipped with chip-enabled technology within two years of the new regulations coming into force. Furthermore, the USDA will be responsible for administering a grant program to fund payment machines in small grocery stores, allowing them to accept the newly designed payment cards. The bill also calls for states to collaborate in the development of a user-friendly EBT app.

“I am delighted to collaborate with colleagues from both sides of the political spectrum on this bill that aims to update SNAP and prevent unscrupulous individuals from unlawfully taking away much-needed food assistance from hardworking families,” Fetterman expressed in a statement.

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