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New EBT Card Protection Available

A new application (for phones) is now available that can help you protect your EBT cash and food benefits. The EBT website now also has these additional security measures. The electronic thefts of benefits has dramatically increased, and these different options can help you keep your benefits safe.

 

The mobile phone application is called “ebtEDGE.” You can install that application on your phone through GooglePlay or the iStore. For computer and tablet users, you can access the card functions through the EBT cardholder portal at this link.

 

People with existing cardholder accounts set up on the website portal will have their information carried over to the new system. The first time you log in, however, you will be asked to set up challenge questions and answers for increased security. People first setting up their website accounts will also need to set up those questions/answers.

 

If you get a message that the username/password is ‘invalid’ OR you want to register for the first follow the instructions on the login page of the application.

 

EBT Customer Service will be available to help you: · Customer Service Email: [email protected]

· Toll-Free Customer Service Number* 877-328-9677

*also found on the back of EBT card

 

EbtEDGE will allow you to easily change your PIN – even turning it off until you want to use the card, so people cannot electronically steal your card and PIN information. You can also stop the card from being used out of your county or state, and other security measures. Click here to see all the new ways you can protect your benefits.

PRESS RELEASE: Court of Appeal Says California Must Replace Electronically Stolen Food Benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Decision reverses lower court ruling; says Department of Social Services is responsible for replacing food benefits stolen from Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card holders

Los Angeles, CA — The California Court of Appeal has ruled that the Department of Social Services must replace CalFresh benefits (formerly “food stamps”) when they are electronically stolen from recipients. Attorneys with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Western Center on Law & Poverty represented plaintiffs Esther Ortega and Joe Soza, both of whom are recipients of CalFresh benefits who experienced electronic theft. Hunger Action Los Angeles, an organization working to end hunger and promote healthy eating through advocacy, direct service, and organizing, was also an organizational plaintiff in the case.

“This decision makes it clear that people don’t have to go hungry if through no fault of their own, their CalFresh benefits are stolen,” said Frank Tamborello, Executive Director of Hunger Action LA. “It’s especially critical during this pandemic, with hunger at an all-time high and electronic theft increasing.”

The Court of Appeal decision in Esther Ortega et al., v. Kimberley Johnson, et al. reverses a trial court decision that said the state is not responsible for replacing stolen benefits, and requires reversal of the California Department of Social Services’ previous denial of the plaintiffs’ requests for replacement benefits.

“It’s disappointing that a high-tech and food-abundant place like California has been failing to protect poor households against the electronic theft of food benefits, as existing regulations require,” said Andrew Kazakes, a LAFLA Staff Attorney who worked on the case. “This decision will bring welcome relief to victims of EBT skimming theft across the state, especially during the pandemic when the importance of food security is that much greater.”

Ms. Ortega and Mr. Soza both had their food benefits stolen by people who obtained their account numbers and PIN’s (Personal Identification Number) — a form of theft that has become increasingly common. The thieves made unauthorized transactions using their account information, and drained close to their entire monthly allotment of CalFresh benefits.

As electronic theft becomes more technologically sophisticated, more low-income Californians are left without essential anti-hunger food benefits, even when they protect their EBT cards and personal information. The result in this case will ensure that CalFresh recipients have their benefits replaced when they are stolen by electronic thieves, and that they don’t go hungry when they are victims of high-tech theft.

“What’s most striking is that the California Department of Social Services acknowledged that the plaintiffs were not at fault in the theft of their benefits, but still left them to bear the loss,” said Alexander Prieto, a Senior Attorney on the case for Western Center. “The Department knows that people’s benefits are being stolen electronically. It puts out notices and warnings; yet before this ruling, it ignored the requirement to ensure that victims of the crimes receive their crucial food benefits.”

California’s CalFresh rules protect electronic theft victims, but replacing benefits is optional under federal law, which ultimately governs CalFresh and similar programs in other states, even though the United States Department of Agriculture also knows the benefits are vulnerable to theft. “Hopefully this ruling sets the stage for a better federal model,” Prieto said.

The point of food assistance is to make sure people can eat. With California and the country both experiencing record levels of hunger, it’s vitally important for government to safeguard necessary food assistance for eligible recipients. This ruling is an important step for Californians who rely on CalFresh benefits to prevent hunger.

Read the Court of Appeal decision here.

 

Contact:

Courtney McKinney, cmckinney[at]wclp.org

Sara J. Williams, sjwilliams[at]lafla.org

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About Hunger Action Los Angeles – Hunger Action Los Angeles (HALA) works to end hunger and promote healthy eating through advocacy, direct service, and organizing.

About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles – Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) seeks to achieve equal justice for people living in poverty across Greater Los Angeles. LAFLA changes lives through direct representation, systems change and community empowerment. It has five offices in Los Angeles County, along with four Self-Help Legal Access Centers at area courthouses and three domestic violence clinics to aid survivors.

About Western Center on Law & Poverty – Through the lens of economic and racial justice, Western Center on Law & Poverty fights in courts, cities, counties, and in the Capitol to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians.

 

 

 

 

Pilot Program for California SNAP (CalFresh) Online Food Purchases to Begin Next Week; UFCW and Western Center Applaud Steps and Urge Further Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Even with this step, many SNAP recipients will be without social-distancing grocery options; and many delivery drivers are paid too little to afford food without SNAP

 

Sacramento, CA – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council and the Western Center on Law & Poverty applaud California’s Department of Social Services (DSS) to be the first state to achieve federal government approval for an emergency request to expand a pilot program permitting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase grocery and food delivery online. This option will be available for SNAP, known as CalFresh in California, beginning April 28th.

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing issues around access to food and other basic necessities. While this new option will help some families living in poverty access food while abiding by federal, state and local emergency orders to shelter in place during the pandemic, there are only two approved retailers – Amazon and Walmart. What’s more, both retailers have established a minimum benefit threshold for purchase of $35 and are charging delivery fees, so it will not offer solutions for everyone.

Since last week’s approval for California, other states have also received approval for SNAP recipients to make purchases online: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Pilot programs began last year in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Washington State.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), even though not all states and only a couple of retailers will be able to participate in the online purchase pilot, they recommend states and retailers not in the pilot utilize other options already available to retailers hoping to serve their customers in ways that support safe social distancing policies, such as “Pay at Pick-up” (also known as “Click and Collect”), where SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pick-up. In a statement issued today, USDA says, “Grocery pickup is already an option that these retailers offer beyond SNAP so they are already thinking through how they can provide a safe environment to do so with the growing concerns around social distancing.”

UFCW and Western Center continue to push for expansion of the program beyond Amazon and Walmart and their third-party grocery delivery, and are requesting that other retailers in California’s grocery industry consider “click and collect” options for curbside pick-up and home delivery.

“Allowing CalFresh participants to use their benefit to purchase food online is a positive step toward reducing the unequal access to food and safety during the pandemic,” said Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate, Western Center on Law & Poverty. “However, we can’t stop there. We have one of the most inclusive EBT systems in the country and we shouldn’t stop working on this until we have expanded online purchase and click-and-collect options are available to all current recipients through all participating retailers. If we don’t get more vendors participating in the online purchasing and ordering options during the pandemic, the result could be more food deserts in communities that desperately need greater access.”

CalFresh provides monthly benefits to assist low-income households in purchasing the food they need to maintain adequate nutrition. A single person is eligible for CalFresh if they make $2,024 a month, which is less than what a $13 an hour job pays for 40 hours a week – $2,080. As companies rely on essential delivery workers to prevent hunger and the spread of COVID-19, we encourage them to consider appreciation pay, and wages that would prevent workers from having to rely on safety-net programs.

“It will be a shame if this program, intended to expand options for communities in need, has the effect of eliminating good union jobs and directing more dollars into the pockets of CEOs at Walmart and Amazon. These giant corporations pay wages so low that many of their own workers qualify for Cal-Fresh and would face hunger without these benefits,” said Andrea Zinder, president, UFCW Western States Council and UFCW Local 324. “Expanding the pilot program to include companies that pay their employees living wages and promote workers’ rights and preventing participating companies from contracting with third party distributors is necessary to prevent the loss of good paying jobs with benefits. This also ensures CalFresh recipients are not held responsible for spoiled or damaged food because if a food delivery goes bad, they would not be able to have those benefits refunded to them.”

As local, state, and federal governments work quickly to address needs related to the pandemic in real time, we must be vigilant that the solutions proposed now do not cause more damage in the future. Opening the online purchase pilot program to more vendors and supporting them to establish “click and collect” options for curbside pick-up and home delivery will create the kind of competition and opportunity for fair wages necessary for communities to be well in the current economic climate.

CONTACT:

UFCW Western States Council: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, jenna[at]paschalroth.com

Western Center on Law and Poverty: Jessica Bartholow, 916.400.1948, jbartholow[at]wclp.org

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The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council is the regional coordinating body of 11 UFCW local unions representing over 200,000 workers in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The Council is a part of the 1.2 million member strong UFCW International Union. UFCW members are standing together to improve the lives of workers, families, and communities.

Western Center on Law & Poverty fights for justice and system-wide change to secure housing, health care, racial justice and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. Western Center attains real-world, policy solutions for clients through litigation, legislative and policy advocacy, and technical assistance and legal support for the state’s legal aid programs. Western Center is California’s oldest and largest legal services support center.

Push is on to fight ‘inequality’ and allow food-stamp recipients to have groceries delivered

“Low-income people have been denied access to lifesaving technology that would protect them when they shop,” said Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, a Los Angeles-based national advocacy group for disadvantaged Americans. “The belief is, if you’re out there begging for food, you don’t deserve the bells and whistles the middle class has to get their food delivered.

“Our food system is a cycle of inequality.”

Read more

JOINT STATEMENT: Families First Coronavirus Response Act passes Congress to provide significant relief during the pandemic: More action still needed

This evening, the President signed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will greatly increase food security during the uncertain times presented by COVID-19 and the subsequent shelter in place protections taking hold across the country. The Senate passed the bill earlier today. The new law will provide flexibility for SNAP food stamp benefits (known as CalFresh in California) and additional anti-hunger resources like Pandemic EBT, which will prevent hunger among children during school closures. 

The law also funds additional unemployment insurance opportunities, paid sick leave, and free COVID-19 testing. We look forward to working with the Department of Social Services and County Human Services Agencies to implement the new law in California.

Specifically, the law will help Californians with low-incomes in the following ways:

  • Provides $500 in additional WIC funds and provides broad authority to USDA to grant waivers of regulatory requirements through September 30th to ensure we are able to meet the specific nutrition needs of pregnant women, new moms, and young children as WIC adopts new practices to remotely serve participant needs.
  • Provides $400M to support increased distribution of food at food banks. California’s food bank lines have doubled in the past week due to intense community need, these are vital funds for food security.
  • Establishes Pandemic EBT, which enables the state to help reduce hunger as schools close and more counties go to shelter in place. Pandemic EBT offers the quickest and easiest way to get food into the hands of those that who need it most: (1) By providing additional SNAP dollars to current SNAP recipients; and (2) By providing funds to children eligible for free and reduced-price school lunch whose families may not be currently receiving SNAP. 
  • Gives USDA authority to issue waivers to allow non-congregate meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • Focuses strategies and additional financial resources on older adult nutrition, since older adults are one of the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. With Governor Newsom announcing that everyone over 65 should stay home, and an increasing number of counties implementing shelter in place, it’s essential that we target services to keep this population nourished.

This is a tremendous first step in addressing the needs of people living in the United States at this time. We are hopeful that Congress and the President will continue the hard work needed to protect everyone – particularly those most vulnerable to the economic implications brought on by the pandemic. We look forward to seeing an economic stimulus package that works not just to help the economy, but most importantly, to provide relief to families and individuals across the country.

FACT SHEET: California Anti-Hunger Leaders Support Pandemic EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer)

A well-tested solution to feed children during public health emergencies and school closures.

For a PDF of this document, click here.

As California braces for the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, many schools are making the difficult decision to close. While these decisions can slow the spread of the disease, the closures disproportionately impact low-income children who rely on free and reduced-price school meals to prevent hunger. California’s school nutrition personnel are working around the clock to find solutions. Thanks to the California Department of Education and USDA, California was approved for a waiver to establish non-congregate meal service during closures. However, the waiver still requires children to travel to meal service sites with a parent. This solution, though better than nothing, will not meet the needs of California’s poorest children who have no parent at home and no way to travel safely to meal sites. Pandemic EBT offers an effective solution to overcoming the multiple barriers that prevent children from benefiting from the waiver.

What is Pandemic EBT? Pandemic EBT, as introduced in H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, is a well-tested solution that delivers nutrition assistance on an EBT card that can be used to purchase groceries for families with school children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals when school is out of session due to a pandemic.

A Well-Tested Solution to Preventing Child Hunger during School Closures: Pandemic EBT is modeled off of Summer EBT, a well-tested federal nutrition program operating in multiple states. In its test phase, Summer EBT eliminated very low food insecurity by one-third, reached 75% of eligible children, and improved children’s nutritional intake.

How Would Pandemic EBT Work? At the State’s option, families with children eligible for free or reduced price meals at schools that have closed due to a pandemic would receive a pre-loaded EBT card in the mail for every eligible child in an amount no less than the value of school lunch and breakfast, and dependent on the amount of time their school will be closed. These EBT cards with pre-loaded food benefits could be used everywhere that SNAP EBT is used.

Is California Ready to Take Advantage of Pandemic EBT? Yes! California operates several successful EBT programs beyond just SNAP that provide recipients with a pre-paid debit card to purchase food at authorized retailers.

How Would Pandemic EBT Benefit School Nutrition Personnel? While many California employees are staying home for their safety, school nutrition personnel are being asked to continue to work so schools can offer meals during closures. School nutrition personnel are some of the poorest workers on school campuses, and tend to be workers of color and women. They are being forced to take the biggest risk. What’s worse, in California, according to SEIU California, these workers would continue to receive pay either way because it would be a declared disaster. Pandemic EBT would allow them to avert the danger of contagion and end the practice of asking them to come into work while their peers are able to remain safely at home.

California’s anti-hunger community is united in support of Pandemic EBT.

For more information about Pandemic EBT:

Jessica Bartholow, Western Center on Law and Poverty: jbartholow[at]wclp.org

Andrew Cheyne, California Association of Food Banks: andrew[at]cafoodbanks.org

Melissa Cannon, California Food Policy Advocates: melissa[at]cfpa.net

Kimberly Rosenberger, Service Employees International (SEIU) California: krosenberger[at]seiucal.org