Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Help Me Howard: Stolen Food Stamps
Some people call them food stamps, some call it an EBT card but no matter when children are involved, the government assistance to buy food is important. But what happens if your card is stolen and you dont have the money for food for your kids. Do they have to go hungry? It's why one mother called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser
WSVN -- Four years ago, Nakita had an accident that took away her sight.
Nakita Alvin: "Some days my vision is better and some days its just bad."
But even when its better, Nakita is still legally blind. Fortunately she has three children giving her three sets of eyes.
Tanisha: "I help my momma read the mail. I read the text messages. She ask me if there is roaches on the floor."
In the middle of June Nakita walked to a family dollar store with her young son and nephew. When it came time to check out she handed the store clerk her EBT card or what some people call food stamp card.
Nakita Alvin: "She put the code in. She told me to put in my pin number. I was trying to do but I couldnt make out the numbers so I had my son to do it."
Nakita told Antonio her pin number. He put it in and Nakita thought the clerk wrapped the receipt around her card and handed it to her so they left.
Nakita Alvin: "No she never gave me back my card."
Nakita found out her card was missing when her mother came over to drive her to the grocery store.
Wanda Nowell, Nakita's Mother: "So I told Kita 'Call the card in stolen.' And she said 'No I dont have to call it in stolen because nobody has my pin number. If they find the card on the ground they cant do nothing with it.'"
But Nakita called DCF and found out her card had been used twice that day already at this store for a dollar, and at this store where the crook spent $135. Half of what she had on the card to last her for the next 21 days.
Nakita Alvin: "They told me the last transaction was made at a store I dont even know about."
Nakita then called police who according to this report went to the family dollar store where she last had her card.
Wanda Nowell: "Saying the cashier told her she gave Nakita back the card and that Nakita put her card back inside her bag."
Police told me they looked at the surveillance tape and it appeared the clerk handed Nakita the card, but someone was using it so Nakita called DCF to shut that one down and get a replacement card.
Nakita Alvin: "I asked them if I can get my food stamps back. If you cant get it for me at least get it for my children and they say they dont reimburse food stamps."
Nakita says she's a adult, she can live without food assistance, but now it means her three children will be affected.
Nakita Alvin: "Patrick, if it wasnt for my children I wouldnt have called you. I would have just left it. I can go on a 30 day fast and call it a day but I am not going to put my kids on a fast."
Well Howard, the cards to buy food are issued by the state and if they are stolen can you get that money back?
Howard Finkelstein: "No. The state treats the food assistance cards like cash. And unless the state makes a mistake, whether you lose it or its stolen, the money is gone. The state will not re-imburse you."
When I checked into DCF's food assistance program, I learned they are regarded as the best in the nation for food assistance. But a spokesman with DCF told me legally the federal government, which funds the food program wont allow the state to re-imburse Nakita for the money that was stolen from the card. However, the next day DCF issued Nakita a replacement card that still had the $121 left on the card when she shut it down.
Nakita Alvin: "I just thank God I got my food stamp card, and I got a chance to put a little groceries in the house so my kids can have food."
Patrick Fraser: "Actually a few days later, Nakita ran out of money but we were able to get her some cash so the kids will have food till her card is refilled with money for the month. As for what happened to her card, how did someone get it? How did they get her pin number? I guess we will never know who bought food intended for Nakitas kids.
Ready to pull out the card to buy a little peace of mind? Here is some food for thought. We can help you stamp out the problem and leave in a good taste in your mouth.