Food Services - SNAP EBT Benefits
Since February 2014, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) has been sending letters to some SNAP (food stamp) recipients telling them they have unused SNAP benefits they may lose.
SNAP recipients have the right to save up their SNAP benefits to do a larger food shop. SNAP is a program for immediate food needs, as well as a "supplemental" nutrition assistance program for low income persons. SNAP also helps people qualify for utility discounts and "Lifeline" phone services (and helps families get free school meals for kids), even if they receive a small monthly SNAP benefit.
Federal SNAP law says states can put SNAP benefits "off-line" if a SNAP recipient has not spent any SNAP benefits in the EBT account for 6 months in a row. DTA must put them back within 48 hours if a recipient contacts her case worker. MLRI is concerned DTA may not be following the federal rules and is putting SNAP offline -- even if the recipient has used some of her SNAP within the past 6 months. Many recipients are confused or report they cannot reach their DTA workers to get their SNAP benefits restored. And DTA workers say they do not know how much EBT must be spent to stop the off-line notices. Federal SNAP law also says states must take away or "expunge" benefits of SNAP recipients who have accumulated more than 12 months-worth of un-used EBT benefits -- but it is not clear if DTA is following that federal rule correctly.
Unused SNAP may be a signal that a recipient needs help with food shopping. Taking SNAP benefits away is not always the right solution! Please track these SNAP off-line and expungement problems.
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