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March 2024 EBT Update: New Discounts, Increases & Problems

March 2024 EBT Update: New Discounts, Increases & Problems

From extra food stamps to incredible new discounts, we’ve got the scoop on everything you need to know about SNAP benefits in this month’s EBT update. Let’s dive right in.

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Extra EBT

Let’s start off with some good news. There are some areas that will be getting extra EBT in March 2024!

Washington DC residents, you’re seeing a 10% uplift in your EBT this month! The Give SNAP A Raise Act, aimed at providing residents with a temporary 10% boost in SNAP benefits, will facilitate this delivery. You should expect this boost to arrive on March 23.

For those in New York, there’s a proposal to raise the minimum SNAP benefit to $100 per month – that’s more than four times the current minimum. This could be a game-changer for many, so make sure to voice your support to your state lawmakers!

We have found a lot of different ways that you can double or even triple your EBT benefits in other areas recently, so make sure to visit LowIncomeRelief.com for more ways to get extra EBT this month. 

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Status of Summer EBT

Of course, many of you are eagerly waiting for that Summer EBT boost. Those extra $120 payments will be very helpful.

That’s why we’re so excited to share good news for families in Nebraska! Nebraska’s Governor has had a change of heart about the Summer EBT program. After sitting down with children who had experienced hunger during the summertime, the governor decided that the state will in fact accept federal funds for the Summer EBT program this year. This is a major reversal from the prior decision to skip the Summer EBT program in that state. 

Of course, not every state has been so fortunate. Governor Landry of Louisiana has taken a hard stand against Summer EBT. He said, “Louisiana already administers robust social safety net programs including SNAP, TANF, FITAP, as well as the Child Nutrition Programs—including the USDA Summer Food Service Program, the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Seamless Summer Option, and WIC. This year, the Summer Food Service Program will offer meals-to-go. Under these numerous programs, every child will be able to receive the meals they need throughout the summer.”

He doesn’t see the need for Summer EBT, which is very frustrating for families there… but lawmakers are trying to take things into their own hands and force the state to sign up for Summer EBT next year, so there is hope. 

New EBT Discounts

In the meantime, we’ve found a ton of new EBT discounts for you this month! From nationwide retailers to local museums, these are some of our favorite perks.

Thrive Market is the first all-online retailer to accept SNAP benefits nationwide. This market provides more than 5,000 organic and sustainable products priced at up to 30% off regular retail prices. With your EBT card, you can get a free one-year Thrive Market membership by applying for the Thrive Gives program.

We’ve also found 11 new EBT admission discounts in seven states. The new additions include:

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  • The Kimberly Crest House & Gardens in Redlands, California;
  • The David L Mason Children’s Art Museum in Dunedin, Florida; 
  • The Children’s Museum of Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia; 
  • The Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Ogunquit, Maine; 
  • The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota in Mankato, Minnesota; 
  • The Cape Henry Lighthouse in Fort Story, Virginia; 
  • The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News; 
  • The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach; 
  • Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington;
  • Northwest Trek in Eatonville, Washington; 
  • The Walla Walla Children’s Museum in Walla Walla, Washington

We’ve added these new additions to our list of more than 1,000 EBT discounts, so be sure to go check that out. 

Fraud Continues to Rise

While we celebrate the new expansions to the SNAP program, we also need to pay attention to a concerning trend that is on the rise. Unfortunately, not all news can be good news, especially when it comes to the safety and security of your benefits.

Recently, over 6,000 EBT accounts were compromised by skimmers in Illinois. The thieves stole so much money that the state hasn’t even finished calculating the losses yet… but they think that the compromised accounts were all tied to a skimming device that was placed in Peoria. When they found out about it, they canceled and reissued all the affected cards which caused delays in benefits for low income users. 

This incident isn’t isolated. Skimming devices have become a widespread issue, affecting countless people across every state. For instance, the Big Y retailer in Massachusetts discovered skimmers in at least 10 of their stores recently. Skimmers are incredibly invasive, capable of stealing your card data in an instant. 

This isn’t just some random, rare occurrence any more. Organized crime has started targeting EBT as well. Not long ago, the government caught a group of 48 people, led by a man from Romania, who used skimmers to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from EBT and other public assistance programs. This shows us just how serious and organized these thieves are. They’re not working alone; they’re part of big groups that know exactly what they’re doing to steal money that’s meant to help people like you.

Because of this, it’s really important for all of us to be extra careful with our EBT cards. The thieves are getting smarter, but we can protect ourselves by being alert and knowing what to look out for. Always check the machine where you’re using your card to make sure it looks right and doesn’t have anything strange attached to it. Watch out for weird lights, wiggly parts, things that don’t line up quite right. 

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The reality is, these scammers are sophisticated and the technology they use is evolving, which only makes it easier for them to steal from unsuspecting victims. You have to be careful and take the time to make sure you aren’t falling into their trap. 

Unfortunately, there’s another kind of theft we need to be cautious about, and it’s one that might surprise you. Sometimes, the people who are supposed to help us with our EBT benefits are the ones who end up taking them. 

For example, a worker from the Food & Nutrition Benefits office in North Carolina recently got caught stealing more than $30,000 from EBT accounts. She did this by opening fake EBT accounts and even taking money from real people’s accounts. The stolen money was used to buy things that were delivered straight to her house.

This kind of theft is really upsetting because it’s from someone who was trusted to help people get their benefits. It shows that we need to be careful and keep an eye on our accounts, even when we think they’re in safe hands.

EBT Replacement Program Updates

With the rise in thefts, the federal replacement plan just isn’t enough. The federal rules set limits on how much money can be replaced and how often, which has left a lot of innocent victims without proper compensation.

Fortunately, there’s some good news for folks in Maryland. The state has decided to make it easier for people to get their stolen SNAP benefits replaced. The state is saying they’re going to be more flexible and supplement those replacements beyond the limits imposed by the federal rules. This means if your benefits get stolen, you have a better chance of getting more of that money back, and you might be able to do it more than twice per year.

For example, an EBT user named Vanessa Fleeton lost $2,500 worth of benefits. Under the federal rules, she was only offered $46 back. That didn’t’ even come close to what she lost. But with these new changes, she’s hoping to get all of her stolen benefits replaced.

Maryland’s Maryland Department of Human Services has even said they’ll make these changes work for cases that happened before the new rules came in, and people won’t have to fill out a bunch of extra forms to get their benefits replaced.

New SNAP Email Scam

Make sure to watch out for a suspicious email about a SNAP settlement! Scammers are getting tricky and are now sending out emails that claim you might be owed some settlement money from SNAP. But here’s the catch – they ask for your personal and payment information, and that’s how they try to scam you.

It’s super important to stay safe and not fall for these tricks. Never give out your personal or financial information in response to emails that you weren’t expecting, especially if they’re asking about your SNAP benefits or any settlements. These scammers are just trying to take what’s not theirs, and we’ve got to be smarter than them.

If you ever get an email like this, or anything that seems suspicious and is related to SNAP, don’t respond to it. Instead, you can help stop these scammers by reporting the email. You can also call 1-844-DHS-TIPS and let them know what’s going on. It’s one way we can all help keep each other safe and make sure our benefits are protected from people trying to take advantage of the system.

New Work Rules Advancing

While we’re all grappling with the rising tide of theft and fraud within the SNAP program, it’s incredibly frustrating to see that so many lawmakers seem to be directing their focus elsewhere. Instead of tackling these urgent security issues head-on to protect our benefits and cut down on the waste caused by fraud, many lawmakers are instead focused on pushing people off of SNAP altogether. 

Several states are now moving towards legislation that could make accessing SNAP benefits even tougher. For instance, West Virginia is considering a proposal that would compel unemployed SNAP recipients to engage in job training if they work less than 30 hours a week, with certain exemptions for those with disabilities or other significant barriers.

Nebraska wants to make their highly-successful SNAP Next Steps program mandatory instead of optional. This change would force unemployed SNAP users, including children as young as 16 and seniors up to age 59, to participate in the employment program in order to continue receiving help with food. The state says that they will offer exemptions to students, people with disabilities and parents of young children. 

In contrast, Michigan is taking a different path. Their state is working with the USDA to delay the implementation of the new federal work requirements until February 2025. This should allow those affected by the rule changes to keep their benefits a little longer. 

USDA Corrective Action Plans in Many States

Along with the big talk about work rules and the problems with scams, there’s another big issue that’s making things tough for people using SNAP: a lot of states are really behind on their paperwork. This means that some people are waiting longer than they should to get their food stamps.  Some states, like Alaska, Colorado, and Georgia, have been put on a corrective action plan by the USDA due to their failure to process applications on time.

Even with this new pressure from the federal government, Tennessee openly admitted that it will take at least a few more months before their program is working smoothly again.

A lot of these backlogs are caused by technical problems as states try to upgrade their systems. Florida  tried to update their system, but it ended up making it really hard for folks to submit their forms or the documents they need on time. As a result, many people lost access to SNAP or Medicaid because of problems with the system.  If you’re in Florida and you’ve had trouble with your benefits because of this, please call the state’s call center for help sorting it out. 

Relief Recap

In this month’s EBT update, we highlight significant updates and new benefits for SNAP recipients. From temporary EBT increases to new EBT discounts, this update covers all the recent news and changes to the SNAP program. For more updates, subscribe to our YouTube channel or check out our latest resource recaps.