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SNAP Skimming: TN Reimbursing Stolen Snap Benefits

Updated: May 1

In July, Carisma Buffington, a single mom with two sons, had waited for over 2 months to receive SNAP benefits when she learned that all the money had been stolen from her SNAP EBT card through a crime known as skimming before she had received it from TDHS. Skimming is a crime being committed against SNAP recipients around the country and happens when benefits are stolen from a person’s SNAP EBT card before they have the chance to use them. This is achieved in several ways, such as card scanning or electronic fraud.

Early in 2023, Carisma Buffington and her sons moved to Tennessee from Georgia to stay with her sister temporarily. She had a Section 8 housing voucher, but had struggled to find housing in Georgia, and her sister offered a temporary solution. However, Carisma and her sons had to leave the home due to unforeseen circumstances, eventually landing in a safe house in Jackson, TN. Carisma had received SNAP benefits in Georgia, and now that she was living in Tennessee, she was no longer eligible for SNAP in Georgia. However, now that she was houseless, she still needed the support of SNAP and applied for benefits in Tennessee in May. Because she was receiving support from a safe house, TDHS determined that she and her sons were not initially eligible for SNAP.

She moved with her sons to Trenton, TN where they were able to find stable housing. Carisma was still without an income and had no savings, so she applied to SNAP again. She qualified for a 7-day expedited SNAP process but was denied SNAP two more times in May. Finally, near the end of June, Carisma was approved for SNAP and learned that her benefits would be backdated to June. But, after two weeks she still had not yet received her SNAP card. She spoke to a DHS caseworker who said that they did not have record of a card being sent and mailed a new one. It would take another two weeks for her to receive the card. It was then that she learned her benefits – almost $1000 – had been stolen from her. She spoke to DHS and learned that her benefits had been redeemed in a series of transactions in both Arkansas and Pennsylvania. All of these transactions occurred on July 31, four days before she even received the card.

Luckily, Carisma has received a replacement card and, with the help of TJC, is in the process of being fully reimbursed by DHS for her stolen benefits. Tennessee was recently approved by USDA to repay stolen SNAP benefits, and the application is now open.

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