Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the framework of her legislation, the SNAP Theft Protection Act, is included in the end-of-year omnibus funding package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. This year, thousands of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries have had their benefits stolen through identity theft and skimming scams; Gillibrand’s legislation directs states to promptly reissue these benefits using already allocated federal funds. The legislation also helps states track SNAP fraud data and develop mechanisms to enhance security technology.
“No one should go hungry because they fell victim to identity theft or a skimming scam,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Today, I’m proud to announce that our bill to reissue SNAP benefits to those who had them stolen will be included in this year’s omnibus bill. SNAP provides a lifeline for millions of New Yorkers, and I will keep doing everything in my power to protect the families who rely on it.”
“SNAP benefits are a lifeline for many families, seniors, veterans, college students, and others who need them to feed themselves and their families,” said Andres Vives, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions New York. “SNAP recipients deserve protections against lost benefits due to card skimming. We want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in elevating the issue of EBT card skimming and ensuring swift restitution for affected households.”
“Empire Justice Center is grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s leadership on benefits skimming,” said Kristin Brown, Empire Justice Center President and CEO. “The omnibus bill will compensate some of the 4,000 low-income households that have already been victimized, and ensure that future skimming victims are at least partially compensated for their losses. We will continue working with the state and legislators in Albany to quickly update our benefit issuance system to put a stop to skimming altogether and to make sure that cash assistance victims are also compensated for their losses. Low-income New Yorkers should be able to access the same protections as credit and debit card holders – to have cards that offer basic security features and to be compensated when they are the victims of fraud.”
“We are grateful that Senator Gillibrand was able to get into the Omnibus Bill provisions that will reduce the risk that already-struggling New Yorkers will faced the double whammy of having their meager food benefits stolen from them with no recourse to get them replaced,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a national direct service and advocacy organization headquartered in New York City. “Such Stolen food benefits increase hunger, reduce income for local food retailers and farmers markets, and harm health by making it more difficult for families to obtain nutritious foods. The Omnibus language addresses this problem in a common-sense, compassionate, manner, enabling g families to be reimbursed. Senator Gillibrand continues to be one of the nation’ s top champions in the fight against domestic hunger.”
“The Legal Aid Society thanks Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on finding federal solutions for the 4,000 New York households who have been victims of skimming to date,” said Susan Welber, staff attorney with the Civil Law Reform Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “We are pleased that the omnibus bill would provide at least partial relief for New York skimming victims, but we continue to call on Albany to ensure that families who are struggling to feed their families because their benefits were stolen by skimming receive the full value of the benefits lost as soon as possible. Skimming victims deserve full compensation, just the same as customers of credit card fraud receive.”
Skimming occurs when criminals place a “skimming” device on an ATM or POS (point of sale) device to capture a person’s PIN information and the data stored on the magnetic strip of the SNAP EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. This allows thieves to use that information to duplicate the EBT card and to access the benefits in the SNAP beneficiary’s account, even without the original card. Unlike credit card, debit card and pre-paid cardholders who are covered by the federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and Regulation E against losses from unauthorized electronic transactions, SNAP EBT beneficiaries are not afforded the same protections. New York State reports that thousands of New Yorkers have had their EBT cards skimmed and benefits stolen this year, losing a total value of more than $730,000.
Gillibrand introduced the SNAP Theft Protection Act alongside Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) earlier this month. Additionally, in October, Senator Gillibrand led her colleagues in sending a letter urging action from USDA to better protect SNAP beneficiaries at risk of having their benefits stolen through skimming scams. The full text of the letter is available HERE.