Maryland became the first state this week to get federal approval for a plan to reimburse victims of food benefits fraud — and Gov. Wes Moore (D) included funding for the effort in a supplemental budget delivered to the General Assembly on Friday.
The Maryland Department of Human Services announced the plan to repay more than 3,800 victims more than $2.5 million in stolen benefits earlier in the week.
The plan comes as states across the country are dealing with theft of millions of dollars in stolen electronic benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Until recently, the federal nutrition program only allowed state agencies to use state funding to reimburse stolen benefits. A provision in the $1.7 trillion federal Consolidated Appropriations Act passed at the end of last year will allow Maryland to use federal funding to repay benefits stolen by card skimming between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2024.
Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2nd), a leading advocate for SNAP reimbursement in Congress, applauded Maryland’s plan.
“With this federal approval, Maryland is once again leading by example in helping those who need it most,” Ruppersberger said. “SNAP theft is a despicable crime that preys on the most vulnerable among us and I am thrilled that many victims will be now be made whole.”
In Maryland, theft of SNAP benefits have soared recently, up to more than $1 million in 2022, compared to $92,000 a year earlier, according to Ruppersberger’s office.
Before the new federal spending bill, states could only use state funding for reimbursement and only a handful had chosen to do so, according to the American Public Human Services Association.
The Maryland Department of Human Services expects that families who had SNAP benefits stolen will be able to file for reimbursement as soon as mid-March through the state’s myMDTHINK Consumer Portal. The department is also working on a plan that would allow anyone who needs assistance completing a reimbursement form to call a hotline or visit their local department of social services for help.
“We took swift and decisive action to replace the stolen benefits that mean so much to the individuals and families we serve,” Maryland Department of Human Services Secretary Rafael López said in a statement.
Marylanders who suspect that they may be a victim of EBT fraud should contact their local department of social services to report suspicious activity and request a new benefits card.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify that states could previously use their own funding for stolen benefits reimbursement. Maryland is the first state approved in the federal reimbursement program.