Food & Income Security

Headline:

DHS is reporting an increase in EBT fraud related to skimming. SSI and Social Security COLA increases of 8.7% to take effect respectively in late December 2023 and early January 2023.

Last-reviewed: 2pm, Jan. 25, 2023

Key Resources:

The Basics

  • There have been increased reports of EBT fraud involving “skimming.”
  • The RI Community Food Bank 2022 Status Report on Hunger in RI is available here. Importantly, it notes that 1 in 3 RI households cannot afford adequate food.
  • The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which offers food boxes delivered to older adults’ homes, is open to applications. Information here.
  • DHS offices are open to in-person services at customer facing lobbies. General application information here. Full regional office list here.
  • Here is some advice from DHS with more information.

The Breakdown

General
  • Locally and nationally there has been an increased in EBT fraud activity, involving a scam called “skimming.” Skimming happens when unsuspecting customers swipe their EBT cards at check-out into devices that look like authentic credit card machines.
    • To prevent fraud, SNAP households are encouraged to:
      • Change their PIN number frequently
      • Monitor their account
      • Be on the lookout for overlay devices attached to keypads, card readers and credit card machines
    • If someone believes they have been a victim of skimming, they can: contact the RI Department of Administration’s Internal Audit, Fraud Detection and Prevention office at 401-574-8175 or they file a report online.
    • Here is some advice from DHS with more information.
  • The Commodity Supplemental Food Program offers older adults who are at or below food boxes delivered monthly. To be eligible, adults must be over 60 years of age and at or below 130% of the federal poverty income guidelines. Applications are required. More information here.
  • Families who received summer P-EBT have up to 9 months from the date they were issued to use them.
    • Summer P-EBT provided additional pandemic-related food benefits to children. Children under 6 are now also eligible, but are benefit issuances have been slightly delayed. No application is required. P-EBT FAQ here. (last updated August 12, 2022)
    • If families did not receive P-EBT, but believe they should have, then care teams can direct them to call RI UnitedWay 211.
  • Families with SNAP who use their EBT cards at participating farmers markets can receive “Bonus Bucks.” This means that for every $1 spent, receive a bonus $1 that can be used on local produce. More information here.
  • Reminder about inclement weather: SNAP households who experience power outages of 4 or more hours are entitled to SNAP replacement benefits. Benefit replacement requests must be submitted within 10 days of power loss. More information under “How to Report Loss of Food” here.
WIC
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) offices are open to remote services.
    • The WIC Shopper App can be downloaded to help locate WIC vendors and offices, the WIC food guide, and a scanning tool to help check if a food is on the approved food list.
    • Use this locator tool to find farmers markets that accept WIC.
Food Pantries
Meals on Wheels

The Bottom Line

  • Care teams can help individuals and families become food secure by sharing information about benefits and programs.
Income Security

The Basics

  • Eligible households may receive a state and/or a federal child tax credit.
  • The SSA will issue in late December/early January 2023 an 8.7% Cost of Living Adjustment to SSI and Social Security recipients.
  • Households now can receive RI Works for up to 60 months. Read more here.
  • Tax filings can come with tax refunds that can be used to pay debts; Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinics will open in February to provide free tax filing assistance.

The Breakdown

  • Tax filings can come with tax refunds that can be used to pay debts; Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinics will open in February to provide free tax filing assistance. VITA tax clinic locations from 2022 are listed here and will be updated for 2023 soon.
  • A $250 state child tax credit rebate was automatically sent in October 2022 to eligible RI families with up to 3 children under the age of 18 and who earn less than $100,000 for a single-income household or $200,000 or less for a two-income household. More information here (last updated August 5, 2022). Rebate FAQ here.
    • Eligibility is based on 2021 tax returns. Check rebate status here.
    • Rebates for people who filed by the October 17, 2022 tax extension will be issued starting in December 2022.
  • Cost of Living Adjustments are made annually by the Social Security Administration. SSI and SS recipients will see an 8.7% increase to the benefits. More information here and fact sheet here.
    • For SSI beneficiaries, their COLA will begin on December 30, 2022. Monthly benefits will increase from$841 to $914.
    •  Social Security beneficiaries will see their COLA increase begin in January 2023.
  • RI passed new changes to RI Works. Families may now receive up to 60 months of assistance (instead of the previous 48 months) and they can now have up to $5,000 (instead of $1,000) in resources and remain eligible.
  • Check the status of SSA office openings here.
    • High demand for services has prompted long in-person wait times. The SSA recommends using online services as much as possible or to minimize lobby based services on days with the highest volume such as the first of the month, Mondays and Fridays.
    • Use this contact guide to get updates on the issue and find other ways to contact the SSA.  
  • RI General Public Assistance is available to eligible adults with limited income and a medical condition that keeps them from working while waiting for a SSI determination. More information here.

The Bottom Line

  • Care teams can share how tax returns can be used to optimize household income. Care teams can start talking about how tax returns might help this spring.

Spotlight on non-discrimination

Income maximization strategies and food security resources often require care teams to direct people to the Department of Human Services (DHS) in order to access concrete supports such as SNAP or RI Works (cash assistance). State agencies, like DHS, are prohibited from discriminating against its applicants or clients based on their race or color, sex, national origin, disability, age, religion, or political beliefs.

If a person believes they have been discriminated against and they share that with your care team, direct that individual to the Rhode Island DHS Civil Rights Office. The Civil Rights office has the authority to investigate discrimination claims arising out of interactions with DHS offices, programs, and contractors.