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How will you get your grant—direct deposit or benefits transfer?

The TAFDC Advocacy Guide is out of date!

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Many of the rules in the guide do not apply right now. See Help with food and cash during COVID-19.

Produced by Deborah Harris, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2017

Your TAFDC grant will be deposited directly to your bank account if you have an account. Otherwise your TAFDC grant will be paid through electronic benefits transfer (EBT). 106 C.M.R. §§ 706.400-706.420. You cannot get paid by check except in special circumstances.

How to get and use your EBT card

DTA will issue you an EBT card to withdraw money from your cash benefits transfer account and to access your SNAP (food stamp) benefits. 106 C.M.R. §§ 701.450, 706.420.

  • A state law requires EBT cards for certain cardholders to include a photo of the cardholder. You may be exempt from this requirement if you are age 18 or younger, age 60 or older, blind, disabled, a victim of domestic violence, have a religious objection to the photo, or you are not included in the grant. If the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has your photo, DTA may use that photo for your EBT card. Otherwise, you may have to go the local DTA office to have your photo taken. Massachusetts General Laws c. 18, § 2(B)(k); DTA Operations Memos 2013-55 (Oct. 23, 2013 2013-57A (Nov. 25, 2013 2013-58A (Nov. 25, 2013).
  • You can use your EBT card to get your cash benefits wherever you see the NYCE logo (at bank ATMs). You can also use the card to get your cash benefits and to make purchases wherever you see the QUEST logo. State law bars certain establishments from accepting EBT cards. This includes liquor stores, casinos, jewelry stores, manicure shops, and others. 106 C.M.R. § 701.225; DTA Operations Memo 2012-49 (Oct. 11, 2012).
  • You can make up to two ATM withdrawals a month from your cash benefits transfer account without being charged a fee by the EBT company. After that, the fee is 75 cents for each withdrawal. You can make as many ATM balance inquiries as you want without paying a fee.
  • Some banks charge another fee just for using their ATM. If you withdraw cash from and ATM owned by Bank of America, Citizens Bank or Sovereign Bank, you will not be charged a bank fee. Other ATM owners also offer free EBT cash withdrawals. Always check the fee notices at the ATM before making a withdrawal.
  • Some stores allow cash back with your EBT purchases. There is no EBT or ATM fee for cash back.
  • To use the card you need to have a Personal Identification Number (PIN). The PIN is the key that unlocks your account. DTA will assign you a PIN. You can change your PIN at the local office or by mail or by calling customer service at 1-800-997-2555. F.O. Memo 2005-31 (July 28, 2005). Choose a PIN that is easy for you to remember but hard for other people to guess.
  • Keep your PIN a secret.
  • Never write your secret PIN on your card.
  • Call customer service at 800-997-2555:
    • If you have questions or problems using your card or secret PIN.
    • To find out your cash or SNAP (food stamp) account balance.
    • To find out where you can use your card.
  • Call your local DTA office to change your PIN
  • If you leave more than a month’s worth of benefits in your cash benefits transfer account, your worker may call you in for an eligibility review because DTA suspects you do not really need the money. If you want to prevent this from happening, you should withdraw enough from your account so that the balance will be less than your monthly grant, or you can switch to direct deposit.
  • If you do not withdraw money from your cash benefits transfer account for 90 days, DTA will put a stop on your card. You have six months to get the stop lifted and get your benefits back. You will have to explain why you did not withdraw benefits for 90 days. 106 C.M.R. § 706.420(D).

Direct Deposit

If you have a bank account, your cash benefits will be deposited directly to your bank account. You will still need to use your EBT card to get your SNAP (food stamp) benefits. If you don’t want to have your cash benefits deposited to your bank account, you can get your cash benefits through EBT if you lack transportation to the bank or the co-owner of the account has abused you. Or, you can close your bank account and switch to getting your cash benefits through EBT.

Account fees and service charges depend on the bank. Most Massachusetts banks have a basic banking service account with no fees or low fees. See www.basicbanking.org. DTA gets information on bank balances and will cut off your benefits if you exceed the asset limit, see What assets count?, but will not review your bank balance to see if you are using your benefits and will not expunge unused benefits from a bank account. See When can DTA take money back?.

Advocacy Reminders

  • If you wish, you can pick someone else to withdraw money from your account or buy food for you with your EBT card, either on a regular basis or in an emergency. This is called an “authorized representative.” If you want, you can have DTA issue two EBT cards—one for you and one for your authorized representative. An authorized representative has access to all your money and SNAP (food stamp) benefits, so be sure you trust the person you pick. 106 C.M.R. § 701.370.
  • If you have problems with your EBT card, for example if the machine tells you the wrong amount of your benefits, call EBT Customer Service at 800-997-2555. Contact an advocate if your problems are not fixed.
  • Head coverings worn for religious reasons do not have to be removed for the photo if the face is not covered. If you have a religious reason for not having a photo or for not uncovering your face for the photo, ask to speak to a DTA worker. DTA Operations Memo 2013-58A (Nov. 25, 2013).

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