By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services is warning about delays for new or replacement Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
The department recently posted an advisory regarding the card delays because of severe winter weather and supply chain issues.
“We have been looking into reports of unusual delays in the receipt of EBT cards,” the advisory read. “Some households are reporting it is taking well beyond the 10-14 business days typical for cards to be delivered.
“If you’re waiting for a card, please be assured your request has been received and is being processed by our contractor. However, severe winter weather and pandemic-related supply chain and labor challenges are affecting EBT contractors and compounding the delay in the production and shipment of cards – not just to Louisiana, but throughout the U.S.”
The department is urging beneficiaries to “please be patient” and not to reorder a new card.
“We understand your frustration,” the advisory read. “We are working with our EBT contractor, Inmar, and the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to identify ways to work around the weather and expedite EBT card deliveries.”
The advisory explained reordering a new card will only increase the wait.
“If you’ve already requested a card and are experiencing a delay, please do not request another card,” it read. “Ordering another card will deactivate the initial card and increase your delay.”
The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services lays out four ways to order new cards on its website.
The delays follow a series of rate increases to programs that use the EBT cards to get benefits to Louisianans.
Benefits through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased in October from a maximum allotment of $535 a month to a maximum of $658 a month after a re-evaluation of the USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, a gauge of the cost of a healthy diet used to set food assistance levels.
The USDA expects the total SNAP benefits issued for fiscal year 2022 will increase $435 million in Louisiana because of the change, leading to an estimated $670 million in additional economic impact, according to the Department of Children & Family Services.
The change came about the same time as the annual cost-of-living adjustment for the USDA’s income limits and deductions, which became effective Oct. 1. The new SNAP limits are posted to the state website.
The Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services also increased benefit amounts through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program in January for the first time in two decades.
Louisiana’s average TANF cash benefit for a three-person household was $240, compared with the national average of $484. The change increased Louisiana’s Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program benefit under TNAF to meet the national average. An associated Kinship Care subsidy for qualified relatives caring for children of working families in poverty increased from $222 a month to $450 a month for each eligible child.