Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) is the method the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service uses to deposit funds onto debit-style cards given to those deemed in need of assistance with making purchases of essential foods and grocery products. The EBT benefits are intended to be short-term in nature, getting a family or individual through a rough financial patch, and can and should be withdrawn from when the need no longer exists.
How Does EBT Work?
If your or your family are facing financial hardship and need assistance purchasing healthy groceries and food staples, you can apply for a government benefit called the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP. To qualify, you have to apply for the benefits and meet the qualification criteria. The program is issued through individual state public assistance agencies, and while eligibility criteria may vary, if you are unemployed, in a low-wage occupation, are elderly, disabled or homeless, you may qualify. The amount of money you receive will be based on your financial need, the size of your family and the government’s assessment of the average costs of buying nutritious foods. The dollar amount of benefits varies each year and is based on current food prices.
SNAP EBT funds can only be used for qualifying food purchases. It cannot be transferred to another party, sold, used to pay bills or make cash withdrawals.
Reasons to Withdraw from EBT
If your income or living circumstances improve for the better, and you no longer need to receive EBT, you should take steps to withdraw from the program. Occurrences that might change your need or eligibility could include:
- A new job
- A better-paying job
- A reduction in living expenses
- Eligibility for another type of assistance program
If you are unsure whether it’s appropriate to withdraw from EBT, consult your assigned case worker.
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Withdrawing From the EBT Program
When you originally qualified for SNAP, you were likely informed about how much your benefits would be and how long the benefits would be in effect. You should have received your EBT card and a personal identification number, or PIN, to use like a debit card when making qualified food purchases at authorized retailers. Your original notification of benefits should have indicated how often you needed to report household circumstances, typically monthly, quarterly, or when there is a significant change in income or personal circumstances. To withdraw and discontinue benefits, you must contact your case worker and explain the reason for your withdrawal. While you may reach out by phone, for best results, put your withdrawal notice in writing and mail it to the address where your caseworker is located.