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Illinois House to Look at Adding Photo ID to LINK Cards

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 13, 2011 6:30PM

The Illinois House voted to move forward with a study into the costs of adding photo identification to Illinois LINK cards. The proposal sponsored by Mahomet Republican Chapin Rose doesn't mean that LINK cards with photo IDs are a done deal, but the call for the state Department of Human Services to look into the cost of doing so is already leading to resistance by Chicago Democrats in Springfield, groups that fight poverty and hunger, and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association as stigmatizing to the nearly 880,000 Illinois residents who have LINK cards for SNAP benefits and cash assistance.

Rose is defending the study by saying that Link Cards with photo identification can help reduce fraud in the system, citing incidents out of state where college students received food stamps and used them to buy beer. Closer to home, there have been stories in local media outlets over the years of LINK card for cash scams at neighborhood convenience stores, isolated incidents where cigarettes and alcohol has been purchased using LINK cards and other stories of of LINK card holders selling their cards for drug money. But the Department of Human Services has worked to minimize fraud in the LINK program. Only 786 recipients of assistance, roughly one percent, lost their benefits.

Rose, who said he grew up in a needy family, said that the study is not intended to stigmatize the poor, but to further reduce fraud in the system. When asked how much he thought the state could save by adding photo identification to LINK cards, Rose applied an estimate of nationwide fraud of SNAP and welfare assistance to Illinois and guessed the move could save the state $1.5 billion.

The vote to move forward with the study was more of a formality so that Springfield can move forward with voting to implement this. The Department of Human Services previously reported that the costs of buying the equipment necessary to tag LINK cards with photo IDs would run as much as $4 million.