March 7, 2024

Cassidy, Wyden, Fetterman Introduce Bill to Protect SNAP Benefits Against Hackers, Thieves

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and John Fetterman (D-PA) today introduced the Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act to upgrade the security of electronic benefit cards and protect families in need. 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. 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. 

“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.”

“There’s no excuse for this two-tier system, where families in need are stuck with outdated, easily hackable technology while folks with credit and ATM cards are better protected. Inaction is not good enough for families, not when it can be the difference between a family in need having food for dinner or going hungry,” said Senator Wyden. 

“SNAP is a critical lifeline for nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians — we must do everything we can to protect it. It’s despicable that thieves are targeting vulnerable hungry families with cyber-crime scams. We can’t let families go hungry because of bad faith actors,” said Senator Fetterman. “As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, I am committed to doing everything in my power to protect and expand SNAP benefits and make sure American families get fed no matter what. In addition to this bill, I’ve also introduced the Fairness for Victims of SNAP Skimming Act to give state SNAP agencies more authority to reimburse SNAP recipients of benefits stolen by skimming. I am proud to work across the aisle on this bipartisan, bicameral bill to modernize SNAP and stop criminals from stealing critical food assistance from working families.”

The Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act addresses fraud by directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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 the adoption of 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.

U.S. Representatives Andy Kim (D-NJ-03) and Mike Lawler (R-NY-17) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill is endorsed by the R Street Institute,Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), Propel, Secure Tech Alliance (STA), Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), Hunger Free America, Higher Learning Advocates, Code for America, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Bread for the World, American Heart Association, Oregon Food Bank, Feeding Texas, Hunger Free New Jersey, Food Bank of South Jersey, and Hunger Solutions NY.

A one-page summary is available here