Several social programs are connected to Electronic Benefit Transfer cards here in California. We have CalFresh for food assistance and CalWorks for cash assistance to name the main two. But Social Services says that abuse can occur. Terri wrote to me and asks, “Dear Jon, Does the state monitor where EBT cash is spent?”
Terri was specifically concerned about using EBT Cash at Bingo Halls and using the money to play Bingo. I spoke to county and state departments of Social Services. What I've learned is that using EBT card benefits for bingo or accessing EBT in a Bingo Hall is illegal, among other places.
The EBT program is essentially federal assistance dollars given to the state and is administered through the county. Once a person qualifies for assistance the funds are automatically deposited into the person’s account on a monthly basis.
But the state freely admits they don't monitor what you use your card for.
The EBT program adds ease of transferring benefits to the recipient, but Social Services says there are many program recipients that don't use the EBT program and prefer direct deposit in their bank account or like to receive a check in the mail.
On using the card themselves, there are over 80 thousand locations cards can be used as they are intended, for food, clothing and shelter.
Current law doesn’t allow EBT cash benefits to be accessed at casinos, card rooms, bingo halls and race tracks among many other places. But again, Social Services admits that they don't monitor where one swipes their card and say EBT cards should not work at a Bingo Hall A.T.M.
So if you think you’re seeing someone use their EBT card at a Bingo Hall, then both the county and state authorities say to report the suspected misuse immediately.
You can report fraud online on the state department of Social Services website under the ‘report fraud’ tab. That site is: http://www.cdss.ca.gov
Social services says with many programs being linked to a person’s EBT card, as an observer its hard to know what they’re entitled to. But no one should be able to access cash on their EBT card at a Bingo Hall A.T.M. If you think that’s what you’re seeing, Social Services says let the investigators do their job and report it to them.
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