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Massachusetts officials are disputing concerns raised by the federal government about implementation of a state requirement that electronic benefit transfer cards used by food stamp recipients include photo identification.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture sent state officials a letter last week that threatened to pull federal administrative funding for the food stamp program unless the problems were cleared up, The Boston Globe reported on Monday.
The photo ID requirement, which went into effect last year as part of an effort to reduce fraud, has created some confusion among retailers, according to the letter.
The EBT cards are issued to the heads of eligible households and act like debit cards for purchasing groceries. But some stores have turned away family members who are legally allowed to use the benefits because they don't match the photos on the cards.
"There are significant concerns with regard to client access to program benefits," the letter stated.
The USDA also said some elderly and disabled people were turned away even though they are exempt from the photo requirement, and found many state workers improperly trained on the new rules.
Stacey Monahan, commissioner of the state Department of Transitional Assistance, said the federal government offered little evidence to back up claims made in the Dec. 2 letter and said the state officials are working on a detailed response.
"It was a very successful implementation," Monahan said of the photo requirement. "For everybody who was supposed to get their card and their benefits, it worked."
The agency spent an estimated $1.5 million to take photographs and mail the new EBT cards to approximately 225,000 recipients in Massachusetts, the Globe reported.
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