Congressman Lawler Joins Bipartisan Colleagues in Introducing Legislation Protecting SNAP Benefits from Hackers and Thieves on National Slam the Scam Day

Congressman Lawler Joins Bipartisan Colleagues in Introducing Legislation Protecting SNAP Benefits from Hackers and Thieves on National Slam the Scam Day

Last week, on Thursday, March 7, National Slam the Scam Day, Representative Mike Lawler joined his House colleague Andy Kim (D-NJ) along with Senators Ron Wyden, (D-OR), John Fetterman (D-PA), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) in introducing the Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act to upgrade the security of electronic benefit cards and protect families in need from thieves that have stolen millions worth of essential food benefits. Congressmen Lawler and Kim are leading the bill in the House of Representatives.

To date, tens of millions of dollars in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits have been stolen by criminals exploiting lax security of SNAP electronic benefit cards, as reported by Rockland Daily here.

Congress has spent years pressing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to require states to issue cards with secure chips rather than magnetic strips that can be easily cloned by criminals. Despite those requests, USDA has failed to update security regulations for benefit cards. Many of Congressman Lawler's constituents have been impacted by these scams, as he and his office have worked arduously to help Hudson Valley families recover their losses.

“We must ensure families who rely on SNAP get the support they need - and that means we must ensure there are adequate safeguards in place to protect those benefits from cybersecurity threats,” said Congressman Lawler. “To that end, I’m proud to join my colleague Rep. Kim along with Senators Wyden, Fetterman, and Cassidy in introducing the bipartisan, bicameral Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act. This legislation will go a long way to ensuring that those who need this assistance are the ones receiving it, not the fraudsters who prey on our most vulnerable.”

“SNAP is supposed to help the person who is food insecure,” said Dr. Cassidy. “It is not supposed to help crooks who steal these benefits. This fights the crooks while preserving the benefits for those most in need.” 

The Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act addresses fraud by directing the USDA to update its cybersecurity regulations to ensure SNAP benefits cannot be easily stolen by criminals. Specifically, this bill will require: 

  • USDA to issue updated regulations requiring SNAP cards to feature anti-fraud technology capable of resisting cloning. These regulations, which also cover mobile payments (such as tap-to-pay with a smartphone), will be updated every five years and must keep pace with private sector and federal agency payment security safeguards. 
  • With USDA funding, states will begin issuing chip-enabled SNAP cards within two years of adopting the new regulations. Within four years, states will no longer be able to issue new SNAP cards containing a magnetic stripe. Within five years, states will have to reissue all existing SNAP cards containing a magnetic stripe as chip-only cards.
  • USDA to operate a grant program providing funds for upgraded chip-capable payment machines to small grocery stores in food deserts, farmers markets, and farm-to-consumer programs.
  • States to provide families with no-fee replacements of SNAP cards in three days or less, if their card is stolen, cloned by fraudsters, or malfunctioning.
  • States to offer multiple accessible, reliable, and mobile-friendly user interfaces, such as a smartphone app or online web portal, for families to manage their EBT account.

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