The United States government is currently in a partial shutdown. This shutdown affects the USDA food assistance program. The USDA funding bill expired December 21, 2018, but included a provision to incur obligation for payments within 30 days to support the food assistance program. Therefore, USDA is instructing states to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February. States will have until January 20th to request and implement early issuance, thus ensuring February benefits for clients.
Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is currently working with states to ensure food assistance benefits will be issued for February, allowing for certain exceptions to be made to ensure that most households retain eligibility for assistance. However, some households may not have February benefits authorized in time to meet those exceptions. DCF wishes to mitigate any harm to those households who may not receive benefits as needed. Therefore, we will provide $100 Walmart gift cards to eligible households beginning January 17, 2019.
These gift cards are determined to be short-term, non-recurrent payments, funded through the TANF block grant. Because the State is using TANF funding during this time frame, we are required to adhere to specific guidelines. The following guidelines address eligibility for the short-term, non-recurrent benefit:
- A household must contain a child up through age 24
- May be a pregnant woman
- Must meet Food Assistance eligibility requirements
These gift cards will mainly be authorized on new applications. There will be situations where an open case failed to get benefits authorized timely or an application was received but not processed for February where a gift card may be authorized. There may also be situations where additional funds are needed even though benefits have already been paid. An example of this could be the household where a case was expedited for January and received the same prorated benefit in February (not the full allotment). Supervisors need to screen situations to assure gift cards are authorized appropriately.
The February EBT file will be sent to FIS at close of business on January 16th. Food assistance benefits will be available to households on or before January 20th. Clients need to be reminded these are actually February benefits, even though they are being received in January, and need to budget according.
January and prior benefits are NOT affected by the partial government shutdown and will be paid as they are authorized.
The gift card is considered a short-term, non-recurrent payment. This gift card is not to be considered income in determining eligibility for benefit programs.
NOTE: This is a fluid situation. Changes will continue to occur and DCF staff will be updated as more information is received.
GIFT CARD PROTOCOL
There will be strict protocols surrounding the gift card procedures. One person in each office should be appointed to handle, record and audit all gift card activities. At least one witness needs to accompany this person during the audits.
Gift cards will be allocated to each office in a number based on the average weekly application approvals and estimated need of such approvals. An inventory sheet ‘Gift Card Tracking’ will be emailed to the point person in each office. Upon receipt of these gift cards, an inventory must be taken. Each card must be accounted for on the ‘Audit Trail Gift Card Office Master’ list, and an electronic signature must confirm its receipt. The gift cards will be inventoried upon receipt and weekly thereafter. This must be completed in a secure location with a minimum of 2 individuals in the room. All gift cards are to be locked and secured throughout the day and night.
There must be 3 people handling the gift card issuance process. The caseworker will determine eligibility for the gift card based on emergency need of the household, using the ‘Gift Card Checklist’. The supervisor must review the authorization and checklist before approving the issuance of the gift. Once that has been completed, the client will sign the form “Limitations of Use of Gift Cards”. The person responsible for the gift cards will distribute the gift card, having the signatures of the applicant, the supervisor and finally themselves. The gift card(s) will be copied with the form “Limitations of Use of Gift Cards” and scanned into the electronic filing system. The ‘Gift Card Checklist’ will be scanned with these documents.
The person responsible will complete the audit record on the ‘Audit Trail Gift Card Master List’ document, placed in each regions’ shared drive. (see attached) These records will be used to complete the weekly and final audit count of the gift cards. All gift cards must be accounted for and attributed to a specific case/household. Any and all audits (weekly, final or other frequency) must be emailed to James Heckard, firstname.lastname@example.org, upon completion for tracking purposes.
Upon completion of this project, any remaining gift cards must be inventoried and returned to the DCF Administration Building. Additional information will be provided at the time.
A caseworker will determine eligibility for food assistance. If a household containing a child up through age 24 is eligible for food assistance, and expresses an emergency need for benefits or is eligible for expedited food assistance, a gift card will be issued. The number of gift cards to be authorized are based on the number of individuals in the household.
For food assistance, each household member is eligible for one (1) gift card, up to a limit of three (3) cards. (see eligibility criteria above)
However, there may be times when special circumstances exist, and the number of gift cards should be increased above the standard allotment. Additional cards may be authorized by the Program Administrator or their designee.
Caseworker will complete the ‘Gift Card Checklist’ with a determination of gift card need/and number.
Supervisor will review and approve (as appropriate).
Client is to sign the “Limitations of Use of Gift Cards” form. Make sure the form is explained in detail to the client – expressly the limits of use. Indicate the number of gift cards to be distributed.
The Supervisor will review the ‘Limitations of Use of Gift Cards’ form and present it to the approved issuer of gift cards.
Office supervisors are responsible to assure gift cards are being authorized appropriately. Therefore, they are required to sign the ‘Gift Card Checklist’ and the ‘Limitations of Use of Gift Cards’ form after thorough review of the application, approval and emergency need. Once they have determined a gift card is appropriate, they will accompany the client to the office designee to receive the gift card(s).
The office designee is required to account for each card. Therefore, an audit of each card is required upon receipt, and daily reconciliations should be made. When presented with the ‘Limitations of Use of Gift Cards’ form, assure the client and supervisor’s signature is on the form. Authorize the correct number of gift cards to be given, recording all information on the Audit form, as stored in the Regions’ shared drive. With the gift cards in hand, scan the ‘Limitations of Use of Gift Cards’ and the ‘Gift Card Checklist’ into the electronic filing system assuring all gift cards to be distributed are scanned.
Ensure the gift cards are locked and stored in a secure area. At the end of each week, reconcile the gift cards authorized against your inventory sheet. Each card should be accounted for.
Final audits are to be done upon completion of the project. Further instructions will be forthcoming.
GIFT CARD CHECKLIST
LIMITATIONS OF USE OF GIFT CARDS