For Immediate Release - July 10, 2013

DTA Commissioner Announces Plan To Address High Balances On EBT Cards

New initiative helps protect benefits for those who need them; builds on reforms in 100 day action plan

BOSTON — Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) Commissioner Stacey Monahan today announced a new initiative to eliminate high balances for cash assistance clients and take high Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) balances offline if they are not being used. The initiative builds on DTA’s 100 day action plan, which is saving money for taxpayers and protecting benefits for those who truly need them as a bridge to stability.

“I was given a mandate from the Governor to do a top to bottom review of the agency and make changes to improve the way we do business,” said Commissioner Monahan. “The fact that some clients are accumulating high SNAP or cash balances is inconsistent with the Department’s goal of helping vulnerable individuals meet their most basic and immediate needs, and that’s why we are taking this action.”

NEW RULES FOR CASH BALANCES:

For cash assistance clients, DTA will eliminate existing high balances on EBT cards and prevent clients from accumulating high balances in the future. Cash benefit cases whose EBT balances exceed $2,500 will be closed. This change impacts clients who are receiving benefits under the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) or Emergency Aid the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) programs.

The policy change aligns with DTA’s regulatory requirements that limit countable assets to under $2,500. Clients who accumulate a cash balance above this threshold will have their case closed for being above the asset limit. The Department will also expunge benefits balances on accounts that have not been utilized after 90 days.

Under this new policy, clients with balances higher than $1,500 will be notified and instructed to contact the Department if their circumstances have changed and they no longer require benefits. Whenever client benefits are expunged, clients will immediately be notified that such action has occurred.

DTA Cash Assistance DataMarch 2013
Total MA cash assistance households*83,009

Total cash benefits dispersed in March
$32.5 million

Average monthly benefit per household
$450

As of March 31
 

Sum of cash balances remaining
$2.1 million

Average cash balance
$25.21

Percent with balance under $1,000
99.80%

Percent with balance under $10
76.50%

Households w/ balance over $1,500
37

Households w/ balance over $2,500
6

*Total records include all active cases, and cases that are pending, closed, or denied w/ balances higher than $0.

 

NEW RULES FOR SNAP BALANCES:
DTA administers federal SNAP benefits, which cannot be converted to cash and can only be used to purchase food for the household.

For SNAP clients, DTA will move offline any benefits that have been inactive for six months, making them inaccessible to clients. Benefits that have been inactive for 12 months or more will be expunged consistent with current policy. Clients whose benefits are taken offline will also be subject to increased case management and will have to request reinstatement.

DTA caseworkers will notify all SNAP clients with balances greater than $5,000 and conduct a case review to ensure they are still in need of the benefits, and are not experiencing any barriers to access.

The federal SNAP program does not prohibit clients from accumulating high balances. Shortly after being appointed interim Commissioner earlier this year, Monahan approached the U.S. Department of Agriculture about the issue, and received feedback prior to developing this plan. DTA will continue to work with its federal partners and the Congressional delegation in efforts to further strengthen program controls.

 


Federal SNAP Assistance Data
March 2013

Total MA SNAP assistance households*
548,812

Total SNAP benefits dispersed in March
$116 million

Average monthly benefit per household
$230
As of March 31 

Sum of all SNAP balances
$25 million
Average SNAP balance$45.16

Percent with balance under $1,000
99.3%

Percent with balance under $10
70.9%

Households w/ balance over $1,500
1,794
Households w/ balance over $5,00045

*Total records include all active, and cases that are pending, closed or denied, w/ balances higher than $0.


UPDATE ON 100 DAY ACTION PLAN:

Commissioner Monahan recently provided legislators with a mid-term status update on program integrity enhancements as part of DTA’s ‘Bridge to Stability’ action plan.

DTA has implemented ten major program integrity enhancements, including new data matches to ensure only those eligible for benefits are receiving them. As part of the plan, new employment, income and asset checks will be conducted to further verify eligibility. DTA also implemented a $5 replacement card fee for both SNAP and cash assistance clients, and now requires clients who have received three or more EBT replacement cards to meet with an office director. As a result, DTA has seen a 62% drop in requests for additional replacement cards.

This spring, the Department announced a new partnership with statewide law enforcement associations to increase data sharing, while giving local police the tools they needs to ensure that clients and retailers are abiding by the law.

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