WHAT: Senate Bill 6491

SPONSORED BY: Sens. Tom, Sheldon, Bailey, Braun, Ericksen, Honeyford, Parlette, Benton, Roach

WHERE IT’S AT: Scheduled for a hearing in Human Services and Corrections (2/4/14, 10 a.m. SHR 1)

WHAT IT DOES: Requires EBT cardholders to purchase new cards that include photo identification.


  • A similar program was proposed in 2012 but went nowhere in part because of a first-year price tag of more than $17 million with subsequent costs of $5 million per year after that.
  • Senate Bill 6491 gets around the costly start-up and administrative expense by shifting the cost onto the more than 670,000 EBT cardholders by requiring them to pay for this new expense.
  • The vast majority of WA EBT cardholders receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Under federal SNAP laws, caregivers must be allowed to purchase groceries on the behalf of immobile seniors and the disabled in their care.
  • This bill puts grocers in the position of either violating federal law by denying purchases completed by caregivers OR simply allowing anyone to use the card, thereby defeating the purpose of the bill.
  • Under the bill, seniors will have to travel to a state licensing center to get their photos taken for the card. If they cannot manage to do so, even if they are immobile or severely disabled, they will lose all benefits.


  • New York recently abandoned its photo ID program for cash assistance, citing high administrative costs and a lack of effectiveness at deterring fraud.


“We must be sure that state programs are run efficiently, but this is not the answer.  This idea, forcing recipients to buy additional photo identification, adds a financial burden to all participants, and, for the immobile and disabled, it is a logistical nightmare.

“This went nowhere in New York, and should go nowhere here.  These programs exist as a way for people to climb out of debt and into the middle class. Extra financial burdens only prolong that process.”