Illinois Link Card Fraud

Brian Seay

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. (IRN) – Lawmakers who seek to reduce the one percent of Link card users who commit fraud are taking a lot of heat in Springfield.  Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler says the plastic, credit card-like Link cards that replaced food stamps several years ago have seen a reduction in fraud. 

“Food stamps really genuinely used to be paper documents that were almost considered a negotiable instrument, and so the advent of the Link card has reduced the individual fraud,” she said at a Senate Appropriations committee Tuesday morning.

But State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) said he’s seen rampant fraud in his district in just one week.

 “This is from a meeting with a police sergeant in Rockford:  ‘Last week we made three arrests and these individuals – one had 20 Link cards on them, one had 30 Link cards, and one had 5 Link cards on their persons.’  And that was just one officer, one week, in one community,” said Syverson in the same committee before Saddler. 

Syverson says when state funds that should be feeding children and families are traded in the form of Link cards for drugs and alcohol, even if just one percent of Link cardholders do it, Syverson says fraud needs to be reduced.

Hours later, the Illinois House debated a bill that would ask the Department of Human Services to look into how much it would cost to put a photo ID on Link cards.  State Rep. Mary Flowers questioned sponsoring State. Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) on the floor. 

“What is the purpose of the photo on the Link card if you use it electronically?” asked Flowers.  “Because if you implement this, you wouldn’t be able to use the check-out line without a clerk, you’d have to go to the point of sale clerk, have somebody verify it’s the right person so they’re not being traded,” replied Rose.  “That’s the purpose.” 

“So is that in your bill?” asked Flowers.  “That would be step two,” said Rose, as he tried to clarify that his bill looked for information that could guide the General Assembly.

Confusion on the House floor about what Rose’s bill did had several Democrats railing against the idea of photo ID’s on Link Cards.   “All this bill does is find out what it would cost, and how to handle caregivers.  It doesn’t actually put a photo ID on anything at this point – on anything,” said Rose.  “It just gives us this information to decide if we want to do that.  That’s all it does.”

HB161 passed 64-48 in the Illinois House and now heads to the Senate.

Copyright Illinois Radio Network


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