Burns renews call for photo IDs on ACCESS cards, other welfare changes

Report shows 2,324 dead people continued getting electronic benefits

EBENSBURG, Sept. 30 – Shocked over a state audit finding that 2,324 dead people received $693,161 in ACCESS card benefits during a 12-month period, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is renewing his call to place photo IDs on the cards, among other welfare reforms.

Burns said the report released by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale was an eye-opener, uncovering an instance of $800 in ACCESS card purchases seven months after that cardholder’s death, post-death ACCESS card spending of between $601 and $1,945 in nine of 30 cases examined more closely, and aggregate ACCESS card spending of $14 million in Florida and $6 million in North Carolina.

“Clearly, our welfare system is being abused, which isn’t fair to the hardworking taxpayers of Pennsylvania,” Burns said. “I have long supported placing a photo ID on ACCESS cards as a means to cut down on fraud. Hopefully, with facts like those documented by Auditor General DePasquale, a majority of the legislature will start to feel the same.”

Burns has favored adding photo IDs to welfare benefits cards as a means of cracking down on fraud as far back as 2011, when he was a co-sponsor of H.B. 487, one of several bills that has sought the change, none of which had garnered enough legislative support over the years to become law.  

Burns has also sponsored or supported welfare reform bills that would require drug testing to receive public assistance, enhance income eligibility verification procedures, require authentication of citizenship and prohibit the purchase of tobacco products using ACCESS cards, which are also known as EBT cards.

“Now that we have documentation of thousands of dead people collecting – and miraculously, spending – welfare benefits using these cards, maybe we’ll get enough votes to make the photo ID mandatory,” Burns said.