EBT, SNAP benefit skim victims find support navigating reimbursement process
Multiple borough organizations joined forces in Mott Haven on Saturday to host a free clinic that aimed to help victims of EBT and SNAP benefit skimming submit claims to the state.
The city’s Human Resources Administration estimates that 22,000 people, including 8,000 in the Bronx have had their EBT and SNAP benefits electronically stolen or skimmed since 2022. While a new state program allows victims to apply for reimbursement, the organizations have found it hasn't been easy – especially in the immigrant community.
Regina Favela, a social worker at Red De Pueblos Transnacionales explains that the claim process "can be really challenging and something that's difficult to navigate, especially for folks that might not have digital literacy, or might not know how to read and write."
The program's executive director, Maru Ponce agrees.
"It can also be an intimidating process, if you're looking at the computer, if you're looking at your phone, if there are words that you might not understand, even if they are in Spanish," said Ponce.
Red De Pueblos Transnacionales and the other groups decided to help – aiming to simplify the process as much as possible for the victims. Volunteers walked them through the process – first, making sure they had access to email and online accounts with Connect EBT, then going step by step through the claim process, all in the victims' native languages.
Ponce says she's seeing it pay off already. One of those victims, Socorro Calero, was appreciative of the help. After saying through a translator that she had been ready to give up on ever getting her stolen benefits reimbursed, she read about the clinic on social media, and decided to come by.
“She's very grateful for the help that she received,” a translator said. “She was finally able to get some answers to questions that were well overdue... She does have some neighbors that have gone through the same process, so she is gonna recommend for them to come to the center."
Organizers hope she does, and they plan to keep holding clinics to get the word to as many people as they can.