Rep. Holmes joins lawmakers backing EBT card reforms

State House News Service reports:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced plans Wednes4/4/2012 to file legislation that would look at restricting welfare recipients from drawing cash with their electronic benefit cards and ban spending outside of New England.

Joined by Weymouth Republican Sen. Robert Hedlund and standing with a group of 18 colleagues, Taunton Republican Rep. Shaunna O'Connell and Boston Democrat Rep. Russell Holmes reiterated their disappointment with recommendations issued last week by a special commission charged with looking into the system and developing plans to ensure funds are responsibly spent by public assistance beneficiaries.

The bill they intend to file would study whether the technology exists to restrict welfare recipients from withdrawing cash on their EBT cards, charge a fee for replacement cards, restrict beneficiaries from spending their benefits outside of Massachusetts and the five states along its border, and require signage in establishments prohibited from accepting EBT cards...

O'Connell said the bill would also recommend studying the cost of a photo identification card system for EBT card users, something opponents estimated would cost $8.4 million in the first year.

Critics called the bill an attack on the poor, claiming that fraud is not as widespread as system critics suggest, and they worried that disallowing cash withdrawals would jeopardize the safety of low-income residents who might need cash for emergencies, such as taking a cab to the hospital.