If I forget to use my EBT card, does my case close or will I lose benefits?

You do not need to continuously use your SNAP benefits to qualify. Also, your SNAP benefits do not expire at the end of each month. They roll-over to the next month if you do not use them all. And if your SNAP case is closed for some reason, you still have the right to use any remaining benefits in your EBT account before the case closed.

However, DTA will remove all benefits from your EBT account if they have not been accessed for a total of 365 days. 106 C.M.R. § 364.900(E).  

DTA has protocol to identify cases where the EBT benefits have not been active for 90 days and contact you. DTA must send you a letter before they take action. If the EBT account is idle for 365 days, DTA will “purge” your account and prevent you from getting those benefits.

DTA may also contact you if your SNAP balance seems too high. Sometimes SNAP balances are high if DTA made an error and issued you a retroactive payment or you won an appeal. Sometimes frail seniors or persons with disabilities also have high balances which may be an indication they may have lost their EBT card or need assistance with shopping and preparing food. A high EBT balance is not a sign of fraud!

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If you wish, you can pick someone else to buy food for you with your EBT card, either on a regular basis or in an emergency. This person is called an “authorized representative.” DTA can also issue two EBT cards—one for you and one for your authorized representative. An authorized representative has access to all your SNAP benefits, so be sure you trust the person you pick. 106 C.M.R. §§ 361.300-361.370. See Can someone else apply for me?
  • If you have problems with accessing your SNAP benefits—for example, if the store’s machine tells you the wrong amount of benefits available—call EBT Customer Service at 1-800-997-2555. Contact an advocate if your problems are not fixed.
  • You can use your EBT card at stores in most other states, if you are visiting out of state or if you move out of MA and there are benefits left in the EBT account. If you use your benefits out of state, DTA may ask you to verify that you are still a resident of the state. See Can I use my EBT benefits out of state? You cannot get benefits in two states at once.

DTA Policy Guidance:

Additional Guidance
  • DTA will contact SNAP households with a high SNAP balance by phone to determine if the client is aware of the balance, has access barriers or has had a change in circumstances affecting eligibility. Ops Memo 2014-8 (Feb 6, 2014)
  • DTA procedures for replacing a card within 5 days of request, or re-pinning an EBT card by mail. Ops Memo 2011-09 (Feb. 25, 2011)
  • USDA Guidance that states may not terminate benefits just because an EBT account is inactive for 90 days. State must allow household to continue through certification period, household entitled to benefits for up to a year (9 months in some states). http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/082207.pdf  

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Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Last Updated January 2016

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