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SNAP Coalition Agenda for Boston Meeting Tomorrow, 3/25/14; EBT photo card practices by local retailers - please flag problems

SNAP Coalition Meeting AGENDA for March 25th:
This is a reminder that tomorrow, March 25th from 10 to Noon is the next Boston SNAP Coalition meeting at St Francis House.  The AGENDA will include:
  • Farm Bill 2014 implementation issues - update on Governor Patrick's recent decision to continue H-EAT option in Massachusetts
  • Medical expense working group update, discussion of how increased in standard medical expense deduction (SMD), AARP medical expense deduction outreach materials  
  • FNS Program Access Review (PAR) update 
  • Status of photo EBT card issuance including recent policy changes affecting immigrant-headed households; discussion of EBT card problems at point of sale (see below)
  • Discussion of recent DTA Operations Memos including: off-line and expunged EBT benefits; automated termination in SNAP and cash benefits in discrepant DOR and SSA matches; work registration and job search changes for certain SNAP household members.
  • The EDMC or "electronic document management center" in Taunton - how is it going for your clients ?  
  • Safelink "free phones" for SNAP recipients - discussion of how SafeLink Reps are representing SafeLink information, problems with deactivated phones
  • Brief update on TAFDC Grant Increase - FY2015 state budget campaign
  • Local SNAP access issues you are seeing, 
  • Announcements of upcoming events    
Tracking EBT photo card and SNAP access problems with local grocers/retailers:
Recently MLRI has received a number of calls from SNAP households about specific MA grocers asking to inspect the EBT photo card and/or refusing to let SNAP household members shop if the person's name or photo is not on the EBT card. These practices may violate federal SNAP rules.  
  • In one recent case, a SNAP recipient called MLRI after a Framingham grocer's treatment of her husband. The wife - who is the head of the SNAP household - was issued the EBT photo card with her name and photo. Her husband went food shopping but the local market refused to let him use the EBT card to pay for the food, even though he had the EBT card and correct PIN. Further, the manager would not accept a phone call from the wife who was bed ridden, and insisted she come to the local market so that manager could confirm her identity with the EBT photo card. 
  • In another case, a Boston woman reported to MLRI that her adult brother - who lives with her and is on the SNAP benefits - also attempted to use the EBT card but was questioned by the store clerk even though he had the correct PIN.  
The federal SNAP rules  a) prohibit retailers from selectively inspecting the photo EBT cards of SNAP customers but asking for photo ID of customers who use debit or credit cards, and b) require states to ensure that all SNAP household members are allowed to use the EBT card to access benefits. See MLRI materials on EBT photo cards including our flier, 3 Things You Need to Know about EBT Photo Cards (in English and Spanish).
Unfortunately, DTA still has not put out any written materials to MA retailers reminding them of the federal requirements against discriminatory or inappropriate treatment of SNAP households. Last December, USDA initiated a statewide "robo call" to all 3,000+ MA EBT retailers. However, there is no written information to retailers. The only written information produced by DTA involves restrictions on what EBT cash assistance recipients can purchase. Further, DTA's current EBT brochure (available here) that is given to SNAP and cash households does not include any information on these important federal protections. DTA local office case managers are directed to track local store access problems they learn of and report then to the DTA Policy Hotline or FNS (see pg 16 of Ops Memo 2014-17) - but with the high volume of SNAP cases per manager combined with the difficulty reaching SNAP workers, it is unlikely there is any meaningful tracking these problems by DTA staff. Most of the large retailers tell us they are aware of the federal SNAP EBT requirements and claim their stores are not carding SNAP recipients. Local grocers may be less attentive to these federal requirements. 

Please flag any situations where it appears local grocers or retailers may inappropriately carding or hassling SNAP households. Contact Vicky Negus at MLRI.; 617-357-0700 x 315