Bicameral bill seeks cyber upgrades for USDA’s SNAP food benefit cards

Tens of millions of dollars have been stolen from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards, which would be switched from magnetic stripes to secure chips under the bipartisan legislation.
A sign alerting customers about SNAP food stamps benefits is displayed in a Brooklyn grocery store on Dec. 5, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

The Department of Agriculture would be tasked with making cybersecurity upgrades to its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program under new bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to stop fraudsters who have already stolen tens of millions of dollars from the electronic food benefits cards.

The Enhanced Cybersecurity for SNAP Act, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., John Fetterman, D-Pa., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Reps. Andy Kim, D-N.J., and Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., would require the USDA to update security protections of SNAP cards, switching from easily clonable magnetic stripes to secure chips, among other measures. 

“There’s no excuse for this two-tier system, where families in need are stuck with outdated, easily hackable technology while folks with credit and ATM cards are better protected,” Wyden said in a news release. “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 Cassidy: “SNAP is supposed to help the person who is food insecure. 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 bill requires the USDA to update regulations on SNAP cards, implementing anti-fraud, cloning-resistant technology and also staying current with mobile payments tech. 

Within two years of the adoption of USDA’s new regulations, states will issue the new chip-enabled cards, and within four years, no SNAP cards with magnetic stripes can be issued. Within five years, magnetic stripe cards will be substituted entirely by states with chip-only cards.

Additionally, USDA will be charged with overseeing a grant program that offers funds for chip-reading payment machines to small grocers in food deserts, as well as to farmers markets and farm-to-consumer programs.

Fetterman, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition and previously introduced the Fairness for Victims of SNAP Skimming Act, said Congress “must do everything we can” to protect SNAP.

“It’s despicable that thieves are targeting vulnerable hungry families with cyber-crime scams,” he said in the release. “We can’t let families go hungry because of bad faith actors.” 

Matt Bracken

Written by Matt Bracken

Matt Bracken is the managing editor of FedScoop and CyberScoop, overseeing coverage of federal government technology policy and cybersecurity. Before joining Scoop News Group in 2023, Matt was a senior editor at Morning Consult, leading data-driven coverage of tech, finance, health and energy. He previously worked in various editorial roles at The Baltimore Sun and the Arizona Daily Star. You can reach him at

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