*AUGUSTA* - After a successful pilot project in the Bangor Office, the Maine Department of Health and Human services will begin producing Electronic Benefits Transaction (EBT) cards with photographs statewide, beginning July 1.
"Placing photos on the Maine EBT card is one additional way to strengthen the integrity of our public assistance programs,'' said Maine DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew. "The photo will also help our staff to verify the identity of the benefit recipient and will be helpful in EBT trafficking cases where cards are sold for cash or drugs, or when multiple cards are in the possession of an individual."
Approximately 223,000 EBT cards are active in Maine. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and other welfare benefits are placed on the EBT card. Over the last 12 months, more than $383 million in benefits have been placed on EBT cards in Maine.
The new card features a white background and a blue banner. It replaces the former Pine Tree Card, which has scenic photographs of Maine on the front. The card will also include language that clearly indicates that misuse of the benefit card is considered a crime.
"Adding a photo to the EBT card will help to deter fraud and protect benefits for those who are legally and legitimately receiving them,'' said Governor Paul R. LePage. "The card now makes it crystal clear that using EBT inappropriately is a crime, which makes it easier to prosecute those who take advantage of the system."
The addition of a photograph has proven to be useful to the benefit recipient in other states, as it creates a more formal proof of identification for those who do not have a State ID or have not been issued a driver's license.
While photos will be taken at each DHHS Office, cards will be issued from a central location, mailed to the recipient and will be activated by entering a Personal Identification Number (PIN), a process similar to any EBT card activation process. The former Pine Tree card will remain active until the new card is delivered and activated.
SNAP, commonly known as Food Stamps, allows card holders to give a family member permission to purchase food on his or her behalf. As is the case with the current card, the PIN is required in order for the purchase to be approved. Retailers are bound by their agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture, which funds the SNAP.
"The two months of experience in the Bangor Office has helped us solidify our process and we are better prepared for statewide implementation,'' said Commissioner Mayhew. "We anticipate a smooth launch and remind those who currently have EBT cards that photos are now required for most people receiving benefits in Maine."
Maine joins New York and Massachusetts as states that have photos on EBT cards. Those who now receive benefits will be informed of this new requirement and will have a photo taken when benefits are re-certified. If an individual is at the DHHS Office for another reason, a photo may be taken at that time.