SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

January 1, 2014

Feds question photo ID rollout on EBT cards

(Continued)

The Department of Transitional Assistance recently mailed 170,000 new photo EBT cards to welfare recipients, using photos that already existed with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Approximately 220,000 welfare recipients will be required to have photos on their EBT cards.

In early December, thousands of people were without benefits when approximately 7,500 cards were returned to DTA by the U.S. Postal Service. Welfare recipients whose new cards were returned had their existing cards shut off, leaving them without access to their food stamp benefits, Shahin said.

An additional 700 new photo EBT cards were erroneously deactivated by the EBT vendor, according to Shahin.

“These issues prevent eligible individuals from accessing critically needed food assistance benefits and create additional hardships for clients, particularly during the holiday season,” Shahin wrote. “Families depend upon SNAP benefits to meet their monthly household nutritional needs.”

The fact that thousands of eligible, already enrolled Massachusetts households could be without access to their benefits is extremely troubling.”

Monahan said the department expected some cards to be returned, largely because of the transient nature of its clients, and in anticipation of that problem used a national database to cross-reference addresses to make sure clients who moved without telling DTA still received their benefits.

Out of the 170,000 mailed, 7,500 were returned, she said. The department sorted through the returned mail daily, and caseworkers called clients to notify them their cards were returned so as to rectify the situation. Some clients were mailed cards overnight using express mail.

“So, we made a lot of attempts to reach people to let them know there was an issue,” she said.

Monahan pointed out that welfare recipients are required to notify the department of any changes, including addresses.

“We are continuing to get, on a daily basis, drips and drabs of returned mail. We will make sure we will reach clients as quickly as possible,” she said.

Approximately 55,000 clients did not have a photo on file. They have been scheduling appointments to have pictures taken at DTA field offices or turning up without appointments, Monahan said. As of last Wednesday night, 15,000 people had their photos taken for new cards within the last two weeks, according to Monahan.

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