States can replace EBT benefits when they have been stolen! After all, EBT theft soared by over 4,000% in 2022 alone. Shockingly, it’s all because EBT cards don’t have security chips, and that makes it ridiculously easy for fraudsters to skim your details and steal your hard-earned benefits. Fortunately, the government is aware of this issue and has authorized states to start replacing stolen SNAP benefits.
In this article, we’ll review the new SNAP replacement law, how the program works, and what you need to do to get your benefits back.
Can states replace stolen SNAP benefits?
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which was passed by Congress in December 2022, states can use federal funds to replace stolen SNAP benefits. This applies to benefits that were unlawfully taken through card skimming, card cloning, or similar methods from October 1, 2022, to September 30, 2024.
The law does have some important limitations that may restrict how much money can be replaced, how quickly it can be replaced, and how frequently it can be replaced. It’s important to understand all the limitations before you file your claim for stolen EBT benefits.
According to the federal law, states can only replace benefits that were stolen on or after October 1, 2022, and before September 30, 2024. Some states have passed laws or are considering laws that will allow them to replace benefits stolen prior to October 1, 2022. However, that is not available in all areas.
Another important time limit to consider is that you only have 30 days to report the theft and claim your benefits. This rule only goes into affect after your state has launched their replacement system. For example, since many states still have not launched their replacement systems as of July 2023, the 30-day limit usually does not apply to benefits stolen before the replacement system is implemented.
The replacement benefits you receive may not be the full amount stolen, either. It’s going to be either the actual amount taken or the total of your benefit allotment for the two months before the theft – whichever is lesser. If you received D-SNAP or EA in that time, then those extra benefits may be replaced if the state chooses to do so.
That means that if you were saving up during the emergency allotments, you may end up losing a lot of money to the thieves anyway. Some people discovered this the hard way, like Robert Gehr in California. He lost $1,000 in benefits to a scammer but only received $120 in replacement benefits because California only replaces the basic monthly allotment, not the full amount stolen.
If you have more than one month’s allotment on your card, make sure that you take extra precautions to protect those benefits. Otherwise, you may end up with losses that aren’t covered by the EBT replacement program.
The law states hat each household can only have their benefits replaced twice each fiscal year. If your benefits are stolen more frequently than that, you will not be able to get them replaced.
It’s also really important to understand that this is based on the fiscal year and not the calendar year. Fiscal years run from October 1 to September 30. That means that if your benefits are stolen on October 6, February 12, and September 15 of a given year, that third theft will not be replaceable because it will be the third instance in the fiscal year even though it’s only the second instance in the calendar year.
The law also allows states to be more restrictive than that because it says that states “cannot exceed” two replacements per year.. It appears that some states can limit you to one replacement per year if they choose to do so.
Obviously, it’s really important to understand how to protect your benefits from theft. We’ll talk about that in greater detail in just a moment.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 was passed in December 2022. It ordered states to start developing a plan to replace stolen benefits. Those plans were due to be submitted to the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service by February 27, 2023. This was quick movement for the government!
However, even though all states have submitted their plans, there are still a handful of states that have not yet had their plans approved by the FNS yet. These states are still waiting for their paperwork to be reviewed before they can set a date for implementation.
Of the states that have been approved, only about 27 of them have already started implementing their plans. The remaining states are still setting up their systems and expect to begin issuing those replacements very soon.
However, some states began to replace EBT benefits as early as March 2023. Maryland was the first state to implement their system and it launched on March 6, 2023.
How to Replace EBT Benefits
The procedure varies by state because each state administers its own EBT replacement programs. That’s also one of the reasons why users in some states have to wait longer than others.
Report the Theft
Regardless of where you live, the first step is to report the theft. This can be done by calling, visiting the office in person, or filling out a form on their website, if available. Some states have modernized the reporting process by adding online forms, while others may still require more traditional methods.
When you report the theft to the food stamps office, they may also ask you to report the theft to the police. Some states may require you to submit a copy of the police report before they process your claim for replacement benefits.
Complete the Paperwork
After reporting, some states may ask for a signed affidavit or documentation to prove that the theft occurred. This paperwork can be tedious but it is very important that you fill the paperwork out completely and turn it in on time.
For instance, Alabama requires an official signed affidavit before they re-issue replacement benefits. In Alabama, you would need to go to your local county DHR office, affidavit in hand, to present your case. Remember, it’s crucial to report the theft within 30 days or you might lose the chance to get those replacement benefits.
Whether or not you live in Alabama, the government agency in charge of issuing these replacements may ask you for additional documentation as well. For example, they may ask you for a police report or your EBT card statement that shows the unauthorized transactions. They may also ask you about where you’ve shopped recently, what apps you use, and more.
When you report, be prepared to verify your identity and provide as many details as possible about the theft. The more information you can provide, the better equipped they will be to track down the culprits.
Wait for the Process
After reporting, expect a waiting period. While the new card arrives relatively quickly, the replacement benefits may take longer to appear in your account. The timeline is largely dependent on the state in which you live.
It can take anywhere from two to ten days to receive a new replacement benefits card. It’s important to get a new card with a new number to prevent further theft, much like changing the locks after a break-in. Always use a new PIN for additional security.
It can take even longer for the state to replace EBT benefits. That’s because the process to issue a new card has already been established but the process to replace benefits is still new. Under the best circumstances, replacement benefits should appear in your account within a few days to weeks. However, delays may occur based on your location.
Because EBT theft is skyrocketing, the government has created a process through which states replace EBT benefits for SNAP users who have lost their benefits to a scammer. It is important for you to understand the deadlines and process so that you can quickly claim those benefits. This article describes the process to get EBT benefits replaced after a theft, as well as some tips on how to protect your benefits from being stolen again.