Illinois House Committee Approves Bill That Would Prevent One Million Illinoisans from Using Food Stamps

The Illinois House Human Services Committee today approved House Bill 161, sponsored by Rep. Chapin Rose. The bill would require the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to request a federal waiver so that it could restrict use of LINK cards -- the electronic benefits cards on which food stamps are delivered -- to the head of household, who would have their photo included on the card. Other members of the household, including the head of household's spouse, children, parents, and other relatives living in the household, would not be able to go to the store and use the card.
 
There are currently 1.8 million people in Illinois receiving food stamps, an all-time high. Many have never received food stamps before but have been forced on to the rolls by the Great Recession and jobless recovery. Those 1.8 million people live in 850,000 discrete households and, if the waiver that the bill requires IDHS to seek is approved and implemented, only the 850,000 heads of household would be permitted to use the LINK card.
 
The bill also requires IDHS to estimate the cost of implementing the waiver, i.e., the cost of installing photographic equipment in its local offices, the staff time that would be devoted to shooting, processing and delivering the pictures to the private company that issues the LINK cards, and the amount that that company, the Northrup-Grumman Corporation, would charge to re-issue 850,000 LINK cards with photos on them. Rep. Greg Harris, chairman of the Human Services Committee, has formally requested that IDHS estimate the fiscal impact of the bill before it proceeds to consideration by the full House of Representatives.
 
IDHS was neutral on this bill, meaning that it did not take a position for or against the bill.
 
The Committee voted along partisan lines on the bill, with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all Democrats voting against the bill with the exception of Rep. Thomas Holbrook (D-Belleville), who substituted for another member of the Committee just before the vote on the bill and did not hear either the testimony on the bill or the list of dozens of organizations opposed to the bill.
 
Contact Dan Lesser for more information.
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