PA SNAP clients MUST receive EBT cards in a timely manner

illustration of person looking in empty mailboxWhen considering the complexity of the application process for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (or “food stamps”), it is not surprising that there are numerous places along the road where the process can veer off course, delaying a client’s ability to use their benefits to buy food.

It is all the more frustrating when that process veers off course after a client is under the impression that they have already crossed the finish line.

Just Harvest recently encountered several situations in which a client was able to successfully navigate the treacherous obstacles of accurately filling out an application – gathering the mountain of supporting documents for verification of their situation and sending it off to a County Assistance Office, completing an interview with a caseworker and being approved for benefits – with nothing to show for it. The final, crucial step that allows a person to finally use their benefits, receiving an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, never happened.

How can it be, that after what can at times, be a month-long process of phone calls, left messages, faxes, mailings, and more phone calls, a client can be approved and not receive a card? Where does the car veer off the road?

When a new client is approved for benefits, they have the option of having their EBT card mailed to them. For clients who are working full-time, caring for young ones, or are otherwise unable to make it into the County Assistance Office, this would seem to be a convenient option.

When a new client is approved for SNAP benefits, a notice is automatically sent from Harrisburg, informing them of their status and the amount of benefits to be expected. If they cannot pick up the EBT card at the office, it is sent from JP Morgan, who has a contract with the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to create the cards and manage the EBT system.

Once a card is issued, it should arrive in 3-7 days. However, unlike the notice of eligibility from Harrisburg, the card is not automatically issued. It requires an additional step from a caseworker to issue the card. If that step never happens, a client does not receive a card, and is unable to use his or her benefits.

This situation raises several questions. Why isn’t the card automatically issued, like the eligibility notice? How often do caseworkers forget to issue a card? What is the average amount of time it takes a client to receive a card after they have been approved? For a process that can already take 30 days just to determine eligibility, having to wait an additional few days or weeks, could be extremely difficult for someone who needs food right away.

Just Harvest recently encountered a case in which a client was approved, but never received a notice or EBT card. After receiving a Just Harvest newsletter months after applying for benefits, he called to say he had never heard anything.

When our advocate inquired about the case, the gentleman had been receiving benefits for over five months and had no idea. Admittedly, this is an extreme case, yet it illustrates another barrier to receiving food stamp benefits, which have the potential to discourage even the most persistent applicant.

DPW needs to ensure that all applicants who are determined eligible receive an EBT card in a consistent and timely manner, so that clients are never forced to hunt down a card that they have already invested so much time and energy into obtaining.

-Brian Gilmore, AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer

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57 Responses to PA SNAP clients MUST receive EBT cards in a timely manner

  1. Anonymous September 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    I too have been approved for food stamps and never received a EBT card. This has been going on now since the beginning of July…3 months. Got an update yesterday and the increased the amount to me.
    However, still NO EBT CARD! The communication is horrific! Can you help me?

  2. Anonymous January 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    SAME THING WITH ME although I am in Alabama. I had to send my neice away because I couldn’t afford to feed her. I will be fine living off ramen, but 2 year old thats just impossible. I have finally gotten someone to acknowledge my existance SIX MONTHS LATER. But now I’m still waiting on the card to actually come. I was told 3-5 business days. Here it is two weeks later. Still waiting on the card.

  3. Anonymous March 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    All you have to do is order an Ebt card yourself that’s not the workers job…..

    • rhy July 28, 2015 at 7:23 am #

      Actually yes it is. If we have to provide documents upon documents, stand in lines, be put on hold for hours and have to come back multiple times, the least they can do is finish the process which is to send out the card. When you open a bank account you don’t have to call and order your first card do you? No, they will either sit there with you at the bank and allow you to pick out your card or go ahead and place the order after verifying the address.

    • Rhonda November 12, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

      I have order and reorder my card myself. Going on two months now. They said the first card was returned undeliverable so I order another card the food stamps are on there. I just can’t seem to get my ebt card. They have the right address. I don’t know what else I can do other than order it again. I’m not sure that will do any good. What do I have to do to get my ebt card?

      • Just Harvest
        Just Harvest November 13, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

        Rhonda – If you live in Allegheny County please call us: 412-431-8960 x602.

        • patrice January 5, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

          If I found my old card can I cancel for the one they are sending out?

          • Just Harvest
            Just Harvest January 6, 2016 at 11:54 am #

            Hi Patrice. Once you order the new card the old one is automatically cancelled.

    • Richard February 28, 2016 at 10:49 pm #

      Yes IT IS….

  4. Anonymous April 15, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    same in pennsylvania, was sent a letter saying hundreds is on the card but i have never received a card. its going on 4 months and i have NO idea what to do as i work every single day and my husband is deceased (2 years). we are getting by on family help but that will soon run out.
    i am worried taking a day off of work will result in sitting in the CAO for hours with no positive outcome. its so sad how our government dismisses the impoverished! the educated, working masses who need the help are too ashamed to raise their collective voices because of the stigma attached to receiving government assistance even if it is temporary! and nothing is ever done.

    • anonymous May 7, 2014 at 8:44 am #

      I am still waiting for mine. Been approved. In Pennsylvania….it’s ridiculous..and I don’t know if I should go down to office or not?

      • Just Harvest
        Just Harvest May 7, 2014 at 11:02 am #

        Please call us – one of our food stamp specialists can help you. 412-431-8960

  5. Anonymous May 25, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    Same here.they turned my card off and reissued another that I still have not received

  6. anonymous May 7, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    Yes it is the state employee, case workers job, to issue the card. Read the job description.

  7. NappppnaNna March 20, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Have same problem in New Mexico they cancelled my bet card with no notification and here I am over a month later still unable to get new card

  8. Brooke July 12, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

    Ordered mine in February its now July and I’ve ordered 6 now in total, lost my job 8 months pregnant with no way to get food if this 6th one doesn’t come through this Is ridiculous.

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest July 13, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      Brooke – do you live in Allegheny County, PA? If so, give us a call. Perhaps we can help. 412-431-8960 x602.

  9. qiana August 12, 2015 at 6:13 pm #

    i just got approved sunday so they have three more days to send

  10. Rebecca August 13, 2015 at 1:30 am #

    I live in Louisiana and my card was canceled for damage,I spoke with my case worker and told her I needed a new card,will she be sending me another one or do I have to call and speak to someone else

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest August 13, 2015 at 10:52 am #

      Rebecca – Unfortunately, we only operate in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania so we can’t speak to Louisiana state government practice.

  11. D Schubert October 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    How can you find out if a new card has been issued , without a pin number?

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest October 27, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

      Sorry for the delayed response! You can call PA’s customer service hotline at 1-877-395-8930

  12. Marcia Johnson November 7, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    I ordered a new card because mine would not scan no more than was a really bad idea, I called and complained 4 times and they told me 3 times they have sent out another new card its been 3 months and I still have not received my card. And she no longer hands out emergency bridge cards no more.

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest November 10, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

      We’re sorry to hear that. Are you located in Allegheny County, PA? If so give us a call and we’ll try to help: (412) 431-8960 x602.

  13. ben November 10, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    I got approved for ebt and have a new card and my benefits are not on there how long does it take for you to receive them

  14. Catherine November 12, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    I move to Georgia thinkin that it would be better,I applied for my benefits over a month ago in still never heard from the snap office my kids goin without food to eat,moving here was a big mistake cause o had no problems until I come here,in still without my stamps

  15. lexie November 16, 2015 at 10:35 pm #

    im from california, i was already approved since i applied last month of may but my problem is i’ve never received my ebt card until now it takes 6 months?? and sending me a notification letter that it says they found out that i never used my food stamp! but how if i never ever recieved my ebt card????should i cancelled my benifits and appy for a new one?? neede badly pls help:)

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest November 17, 2015 at 10:58 am #

      Are you living in California now? If so, I’m afraid we can’t help you. If you are a resident of Allegheny County, PA then call us at 412-431-8960 x602.

  16. Rochele December 12, 2015 at 2:07 am #

    I never received this months benefits on my card

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest December 14, 2015 at 10:29 am #

      Rochele – do you live in Allegheny County, PA? If so, please contact us at (412) 431-8960 x602 and we can help you sort out what’s going on.

  17. HiD December 18, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    I was told by my case worker that I am approved for $700 for the month of December bc it was retroactive from when I applied, and $500 for months after. I went to pick up my card today in the Butler Co. Office and was told to call the number to chose my pin. Did that, signed the paperwork, and left. Was told nothing about funds not being automatically available. Went to store and no funds are on my card. Really embarrassing. Called the number on the card and said no funds/balance on card. I plan on calling the office tomorrow to see what the problem is, but it’s frustrating.

  18. Joseph Shaffer December 19, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    It is impossible to get without the EBT card because I lost the damn thing on the street.

  19. Liz January 3, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    When i first applied, i was approved and never got my card. I waited well over a month for it! So i went into the office And complained and they made me one right then and there. Literally the second i got home, the card came in the mail! I was so mad lol but i have just re applied and still have heard nothing after a month, however when i checked my balance, it had me re actuvate the card? I am staying hopeful that it means i am re approved! Has this happened to anyone else?

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest January 6, 2016 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Liz. If your benefits are re-opened you should get a notice. EBT card issues are very common, sadly.

  20. Dee January 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm #

    I applied and was approved for ebt back in Dec here it is 2days from feb and I have not receive my ebt card yet I re order 3times and still no card I’m bout out of patience

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest January 27, 2016 at 10:26 am #

      Dee – If you’re in Allegheny County please call us at (412) 431-8960.

  21. Michelle cook February 17, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

    I live in Atlanta GA and it’s been about a month and I am hungry I cancelled my old card what can I do

  22. robert March 17, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    I received an approval notice for snap, but the ebt card was not included. How do I get the card?

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest March 18, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

      Hi Robert. If you live in Pennsylvania, receiving the card can take 7-10 days after you’re approved. If you want to double-check that it’s on its way you can call the Dept. of Human Services Help Center: 1-877-395-8930. If you told the caseworker during the interview that you still have an old card then your new benefits would be added to your old card.

  23. Precious April 14, 2016 at 4:11 am #

    Pa is really bad for things very arrogant n rude..I actually just called. The number on my card to see how much I had cuz I knew I had about 80 left n my card said balance 0 n pending stamps which i got few hours ago well i called bout the 0 balance n to see if they could tell me where the purchased were made n they told me n I said ok I member now using it the guy asked what my card # was n told him I dint have it on me i was at work he said if i couldn’t supply that # he had to cncell my card I’m like why i have my card just not on person it’s in my car he said very rude he dint care it was being cancelled i begged him not too cuz I had 2 kids n my stamps just went on n I’ll have to wait ten days but he did I called to talk to supervisor she gave me runaround hung up called again I told her listen to recording cuz that guy said I reported it stolen n now I’m crying saying no I didn’t she hung up on me!! Where can I report this employee n supervisor

  24. Tara April 18, 2016 at 2:17 am #

    My ebt card says a balance of 278 dollars cash. But when I go to take it out it says no balance

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest April 18, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

      Tara – if you are located in Allegheny County you can call the PA Department of Human Services EBT Hotline at 888-328-7366.

  25. kokoro66Janice July 22, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    Me too almost 4 months and no card! I call and the number disconnects after holding forever or i get someone that tells me i need to dial again…very frustrating. I dont know what to do now

    • Just Harvest
      Just Harvest July 22, 2016 at 11:42 am #

      Are you located in Allegheny County? If so, please call us at (412) 431-8960 x602.

  26. Olivia Young July 27, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    absolutely without a doubt Georgia is the most incapable state. Not only do they not let you know anything but they are only able to help you phone wise till 2pm monday thru friday. What is that about. I want those hours. Florida helped me a lot not only were they willing to go over and beyond to help someone who lived out of state but so pleasant and courteous on the phone. Georgia is the worist place to live. Sorry I am only here because I dont have the money to move back home. Florida

  27. Leo Johnson January 28, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    It really don’t make good sense for people that’s hungry to still have to wait for there benefits after there been approved… Now after waiting 7 to 10 more days is ridiculous… Too busy worried about saving money… just in case you don’t get approved… they wait for you to be approved before it gets mailed to you… Ass backwards… Trying to save pennys…

  28. Joe February 17, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    Got a letter stating I was eligible for food stamos and would start Jan 31. It’s now Feb 17th,still no card. Calling the SNAP office only leads to a message stating “You’re call is important to us,please call back later”. Doesn’t sound like it’s important to them as I’ve been calling every hour,every day for almost 2 weeks now. Tried the Luzerne County number…same bull.

    • Benjamin M Stone February 22, 2017 at 12:34 am #

      Go into their office.

  29. Benjamin M Stone February 22, 2017 at 12:33 am #

    I am having an issue involving my acceptance for being an expedited food stamp recipient (7 calendar days). I was told that the caseworker would input my application for documentation within a few days, and it has now been 5 days later, and still yet their office has no whereabouts of my new information. Is it possible that my caseworker has forgotten or lost my information?

  30. Danielle July 14, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    I got approved the first week of June she told me my card should be here in the 7-10 business days well I still haven’t received one til this day so I called the number and just said my card was lost hoping they would send another one and I still haven’t got one but when I call my balance it’s money on there so I just don’t have the card Idk what’s going on but this going on the second month why should I keep saying my card got lost if I’m never getting one in the mail!

  31. Jaslynn July 15, 2017 at 3:48 am #

    I recieved my ebt card on the 13th of july but there are no benifits on it its now the 15th of july and im so confuzed on if i get benifits this month or next .?
    Or if i get any at all.. but if i didnt get approve why would they send me a card.? PLEASE HELP

  32. Sabella Louis October 21, 2017 at 7:36 am #

    Georgia is the worst when it come to food stamps and getting the card. I move here 2 months ago I applied in September 13 and they told me thirty day for the decision. It is not Oct 21 and I got an apology letter telling me they are behind allow them more time. Keep in mind I went through the hurricane and had no lights for a week and 3 days…. Still have no food

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