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February 16, 2013

Senator files bill to combat EBT fraud

Newly elected State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives has filed legislation to require photo identification on state electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards and to make it easier for the public to report fraud.

The proposal gained the support of several Democrats, including newly-elected State Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, and state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester.

“I think there will be bipartisan support for comprehensive welfare reform,” O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, said. “Resources in the state are scarce and I think everybody can get on board with taking the measures necessary so people can have confidence in the system again.”

O’Connor Ives represents Methuen, Haverhill, Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, Merrimac, and about half of North Andover. Elected last November, she succeeded Steven Baddour, who resigned to take a job with a Boston law firm.

If passed, the bill would add the recipient’s photograph to the card, a bid to reduce fraudulent use of a card.

Legislation passed last year required the Department of Transitional Services, which oversees the EBT system, to charge a $5 replacement fee for lost cards, track the number of replacement cards sent to recipients and monitor multiple replacement requests from a given recipient in a single year.

O’Connor Ives and DiZoglio said they had heard from constituents who were concerned about EBT fraud.

“In general, what I have heard from constituents is that they genuinely want to help those who are truly in need. It is hearing about fraud and abuse that people are fed up with,” DiZoglio said. “There is a big difference between encouraging and enabling. I am taking strong steps this session to make sure additional EBT card reforms take place. This is one of several bills that I have signed onto to increase transparency and help bring more accountability to the system.”

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