A MAJORITY of states have extended their support for food stamp claimants in February, as millions are once again getting an automatic benefit boost.
In January, the vast majority of states extended the emergency SNAP benefits.
While the amount of extra money eligible families may receive generally depends on family size, $95 is the minimum households must be given.
States that have extended the extra benefits are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington, DC, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Many states have made their benefits available within the first 10 days of February.
However, if you live in states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, or Indiana – you might get your benefits later in the month.
The order you receive your food stamps each month could depend on case number, client name, and ID number.
Food stamps are reportedly loaded into your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card on the same day every month.
Read our food stamps live blog for the latest news and updates…
California audit reveals millions unused
An audit last year of California revealed that $182million in pandemic-related food assistance has gone unused.
Reports indicate that as many as 500,000 benefits cards went unused during the 2019-2020 school year.
The audit was performed by California state and analyzed the use of federal funds by the California Department of Social Services.
The two food aid programs in question are the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is more commonly called food stamps.
In California, SNAP is also known as CalFresh.
How many people rely on SNAP benefits?
SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program.
More than 41.5million people rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to put food on their tables.
The money is provided through an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card which is used like a debit card to buy food at authorized retail food stores.
How long will you receive SNAP, continued
For example, in New York, two months prior to the end of the re-certification period, you will receive a packet in the mail that includes a SNAP application and a scheduled interview appointment.
Meanwhile, a Florida woman started her recertification process for SNAP benefits before her expiration date, only to not have money reloaded onto her EBT card.
States, which run the SNAP programs, want to make sure you still need help and many times will ask for pay stubs or income statements.
If you miss to re-certify your food stamps on time but are still eligible, you risk having the benefits cut off.
How long will you receive SNAP?
If you are determined to be eligible, you will receive a notice that tells you how long you will receive SNAP benefits.
This is called your certification period.
Before your certification period ends, you will receive another notice that says you must re-certify to continue receiving benefits.
Your local SNAP office will provide you with information about how to re-certify.
California man owes food stamp fraud restitution, continued
When he made his plea in October, Carbajal paid $1,390,985 in restitution to the US Department of Agriculture for fraudulently accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
In June 2016, the USDA revoked Carbajal’s right to accept SNAP benefits at the stores after he overcharged the government for items he sold to SNAP recipients, but Carbajal and his wife, Adelina Carbajal, continued to accept SNAP benefits at both stores for many years.
California man owes food stamp fraud restitution
A Camarillo, California man paid almost $1.4million in restitution for his part in a fraudulent scheme involving food benefits, the Ventura County Star reported.
He will also spend time in jail for his role.
Jose Refugio Carbajal, 55, pleaded guilty to 10 felony charges including conspiracy, money laundering, identity theft, and public benefits fraud for the scheme involving food stamps at two Oxnard markets he operated.
Amazon Prime’s EBT discount
Amazon offers $5.99 per month Amazon Prime memberships for customers who receive either EBT or Medicaid benefits.
They will ask you to verify this.
The regular cost of prime membership is $12.99, plus tax.
Amazon Prime includes free two-day shipping and free streaming access.
How the SNAP boost impacts families
On average, food stamps increased by $36 per person to $157 each month on October 1.
But how much you get in food stamps will also depend on family size and the state you live in.
For instance, under the new boost, New Yorkers get an additional $1,440 in SNAP benefits, which equals an extra $120 each month, according to the USDA.
A smaller state like Oregon, on the other hand, just get an extra $337 in benefits – representing a little over $28 more per month.
SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their own cash on food.
Up to $132 of food benefits
Thousands of children across the United States are eligible to receive up to $132 of food benefits.
The money comes from the Pandemic-EBT program, which was created to help feed children during school closures due to Covid-19.
Similar to food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Pandemic-EBT program works toward ending hunger by providing food to various different eligible families who were affected by the pandemic.
States giving extra food stamps to residents
As the epidemic worsens, several states are deciding to subsidize food assistance for their populations through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
For the month of February, the following states will be providing extra stamps to their residents:
SNAP can fund your green thumb
You can use your EBT card to purchase seeds, plants, and trees that produce food.
This includes herbs as well as fruits and vegetables.
If you are new to gardening, be sure to use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which zone you reside in and which produce can grow where you live.
EBT personal identification number
After you receive your EBT card in the mail, you will also be given a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
The PIN protects your benefits from being used by someone without authorization.
The Food and Nutrition Service advises you to keep your PIN secret, and do not write it down on the card.
Expiration warning, part two
Generally, if you don’t use your EBT card for three full months, it could be deactivated and you could lose access to your account.
The deadline varies by state. In Washington, accounts become inactive if recipients haven’t made a withdrawal within 60 days.
The deadline is reset every time Americans use their account.
States are required to let Americans know that they face losing benefits no later than 30 days before the date they are expected to be removed.
The notices go to a recipient’s address on file, so it’s vital that you have up-to-date contact information on file with your local SNAP agency.
Expiration date warning
A warning for food stamp recipients has been issued as the expiration date looms for funds on some EBT cards.
Experts warn that Americans who get the funds, formerly known as food stamps, could miss out on their benefits if they go too long without using the cards.
While unused benefits typically roll over to the next month, most SNAP benefits expire if you don’t use them for nine months, according to Forbes.
You won’t lose all your benefits at once though — they’ll expire on a month-to-month basis depending on when they were issued.
There is also a time limit for how long you should go without using your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
Re-certifying for eligibility, continued
To help ensure that you do not miss a re-certification deadline, check you mail regularly.
If you do not re-certify in time, your SNAP benefits may stop.
If you miss a deadline, it is important to complete your re-certification as soon as possible.
The process is reported to be less difficult in some cases if the re-certification is completed within 30 days of the due date.
Re-certifying for eligibility
To continue receiving SNAP benefits, you must re-certify to prove you are still eligible for the program every few months.
The exact re-certification process varies by state, but it usually must be done every six to 12 months.
Depending on an individual’s circumstances, they have to re-certify more frequently, while others may even be able to wait two years.
‘Still an increased need’
Ellie Agar of Hunger Free Colorado, an organization that helps people with resources to get food, spoke with Denver7 about the need for an expansion in SNAP benefits.
“It’s been more than 50 years since they’ve evaluated the cost of food for and so a big part of that expansion was actually re-evaluating to say food prices have gone up healthy food is more expensive,” Agar said.
“Because of COVID right now, every household is getting the maximum benefit and that will end when the crisis and pandemic ends emergency, but for households during the past couple of years, it’s been incredible for them to have that extra resource to be able to meet that need,” she added.
Agar explained that now, the organization is helping about 2.5 times the amount of people they had been before the pandemic.
“There is still an increased need and we don’t anticipate ever going back to those pre-pandemic numbers,” she said.
How to report SNAP fraud
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Inspector General accepts all types of fraud reports regarding food stamps.
You can also file a fraud complaint with your state.
This is particularly crucial if you suspect someone to lie about their income or assets or abuse government assistance.
Your report is kept private.
Potential fraud, part three
Hooks said that she doesn’t know anybody in California and that she didn’t give out her credit card information.
Meanwhile, Owens said that when a robber swiped $1,200 from her card, she only had $0.49 left on her card.
She told ABC7: “I felt hurt. I felt drained. My head was hurting. I cried. I cried for days.”
Potential fraud, continued
While Hooks was in the hospital fighting Covid-19, she said her card was used for roughly $1,500 in purchases.
Six transactions were made in California, she said.
Hooks told ABC7: “I cannot be in two places at once. I cannot be in Chicago and California at the same time while I was battling Covid.”
She said she had her card with her at the hospital.
Potential fraud, hacked cards
After food assistance cards carrying up to $1,500 in groceries were hacked, millions of people were cautioned about the risk of fraud.
Hackers wiped the Illinois Link cards of Tatara Hooks and Roymona Owens, both of Chicago.
Residents of Illinois who are qualified for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), are given Link cards.
Food stamps are used by around 1.8million individuals in the state.
Expedited stamps: who qualifies
Many states including New York, Oregon, and Texas have similar eligibility requirements.
To qualify for the expedited food stamps in those states, your gross earnings for the month must be less than $150.
Also, your liquid resources cannot exceed $99.
Some migrants and seasonal farmworkers may be eligible to get the stamps as well.
The amount you get in benefits will depend on your state.
Difference between regular and expedited stamps
The expedited stamps are used the same way ordinary food stamps are – with the use intended to help those in need pay for meals.
The only difference is how quickly they arrive.
Most food stamps arrive within 30 days of when states begin to process your application – but the expedited ones might arrive within the five days depending on how quickly the state can issue them.
USDA fights food stamp scams
Extortion of food stamp benefits has grown so frequent that authorities have taken a number of precautions to prevent it.
According to SafeAtLast.co, the US Department of Agriculture spends about $5million per year from federal taxpayer funds to investigate food stamp fraud cases.
SNAP helps prevent poverty
SNAP is critical in preventing families on the verge of poverty from falling into it.
According to poverty statistics, SNAP helped 4.7million households escape poverty in 2011.
The child poverty rate would have been approximately three percentage points higher if not for SNAP.
https://www.the-sun.com/money/4763528/ebt-food-stamps-apply-extra-february-2022/ Food stamps 2022 update – Extra $95 SNAP checks to be sent out in 38 states