Replacing CalFresh benefits if something happens to them

The CalFresh office will replace the EBT card if it is lost, stolen, destroyed, or does not work properly. [7 C.F.R. §§ 274.6(a)(1), 274.6(b); MPP § 63-603.]

If the recipient’s EBT card is lost or stolen, or if someone the recipient does not trust learns the recipient’s “personal identification number” (PIN), the recipient should let the CalFresh office know right away because the CalFresh office will not replace any CalFresh benefits that were stolen from the EBT card before it was reported missing, if the authorized PIN number was used to access the benefits. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10072(g); MPP § 16-515.1; MPP § 63-603.154.]

Better yet, the recipient should immediately use the EBT telephone hotline to report the lost or stolen EBT card or PIN. The CalFresh program must provide recipients with a 24-hour, toll-free telephone hotline they can call to report that the card has been lost or stolen or that someone has learned the PIN. [7 C.F.R § 274.2(e)(4); MPP § 16-515.1.] The federal SNAP regulations require that this reporting system is “continually operative.”” [7 C.F.R. § 274.6(b)(2).] As soon as a call is made to the 24-hour hotline, the CalFresh office will immediately cancel the EBT card and PIN so that no one can use the CalFresh benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 274.6(b)(2); MPP § 16-515.4.]

The CalFresh office must make replacement EBT cards available for pick up or place the card in the mail within two business days following notice by the household the card has been lost, stolen or damaged. [7 C.F.R. § 274.6(b); MPP § 16-517.1.] The new card will have the same amount of CalFresh benefits that were on the old card at the time the problem was reported.

The CalFresh office may charge a fee for replacing the card by reducing the next month’s CalFresh allotment. The replacement fee may not exceed the state agency’s cost to replace the card. State agencies may choose not to charge the fee if the loss was not the household’s fault. [See 7 U.S.C. § 2016(h)(8); 7 C.F.R. § 274.6(b)(3).] There does not appear to be any authority in California law to charge such a fee.

The recipient should take care not to share the PIN with anyone, and not to write the PIN on the card. If a thief gets the EBT card and the PIN, he or she can spend all the CalFresh benefits before the theft is reported, and the CalFresh benefits cannot be replaced.

If it is suspected that someone has used the EBT card without permission, it may be a good idea to report this to the CalFresh office, even if the recipient is sure that the problem will not happen again. If someone has “trafficked” the CalFresh benefits (i.e., sold them for cash), the CalFresh office or a district attorney may later accuse the recipient of doing the trafficking. Although the CalFresh office will not replace CalFresh benefits that were stolen before the problem was reported, it may be worth reporting it to protect the recipient from any false accusations.

Benefits can also be lost because of electronic theft.  There are two types of electronic theft of benefits: skimming, which is use of electronic equipment to capture a recipient’s electronic benefits card, and scamming, which is deceiving a recipient to disclose their account information.

Recipients can report possible electronic theft by contacting  contacting the county.  [ACL 21-133.]  The report must occur within 10 days of the electronic theft.  [Id.]  Once the report is made, the recipient must complete the EBT 2259 report within 90 days of the electronic theft.  [Id.]  The county has a duty to assist persons with the report within 10 business days.  [ACL 23-13.]  The recipient is not required to file a police report.  [ACL 23-13, ACL 21-113.]  If the recipient does file a police report, they are not required to submit a copy of the police report. [Id.]  The recipient is no longer required to contact the EBT vendor.  [ACL 23-13.]

If the theft report is made timely (which is within 10 days of the theft), the county has 10 business days to issue benefit replacement.  [Id.]  If the county cannot process the form within 10 business days, it must issue replacement benefits.  [Id.]  If the county refers the case for investigation, the case can be pended for up to 25 calendar days.  [Id.]

CalFresh benefits stolen electronically cannot be replaced more than twice in six months.  [ACL 21-133.] The maximum replacement amount is one month of benefits.  [Id.]

Replacement benefits do not count as income or a resource.  [Id.]