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Thousands of Massachusetts families claim their SNAP benefits have been stolen

Fresh produce.
Eric Hunt
Creative Commons
Fresh Produce

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's administration faces a new class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of thousands of Massachusetts families, who allege that their critical food assistance dollars were stolen and that they cannot get replacement aid from the state.

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute filed the suit, which lists Christina Santiago and Natahlie Rahmsay as plaintiffs, on Friday, arguing that the Department of Transitional Assistance has been violating state and federal law by failing to restore stolen Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program balances.

In a press release announcing the case, MLRI alleged that criminals have stolen more than $1 million from SNAP beneficiaries in Massachusetts since June by using skimming devices, which attach to ATMs or points of sale to capture the card information and PINs, and then fraudulently using that information to make purchases.

Attorneys wrote in the complaint that for both Santiago and Rahmsay, DTA records show out-of-state purchases were made using their SNAP benefits that neither person authorized. Plaintiffs allege that DTA declined to restore the stolen and spent amounts because the U.S. Department of Agriculture "has told states that USDA, which in most cases pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, will not cover the restoration costs," the lawsuit reads.

"Low-income families count on their SNAP benefits to put food on the table each month," Betsy Gwin, a staff attorney at MLRI, said in a statement. "When criminals steal families' SNAP, our federal and state governments must step up to restore the lost benefits."

A spokesperson for DTA did not comment on the lawsuit Monday.

MLRI on Monday also circulated a letter that the state's entire Congressional delegation sent to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack on Sept. 1, urging USDA to assure states it will cover the costs of restoring SNAP benefits stolen by skimmers and to help states improve EBT card security.

Corrected: November 8, 2022 at 1:39 PM EST
This article misspelled the surname of a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. Her name is Betsy Gwin.

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