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If you work retail and have children you may be on EBT - food stamps. If you are on EBT, and are having trouble keeping food in the house now that it's February and everybody's hours are cut, there is help available.

This info is general - I live in Oregon, (the food stamp capital of America - no lie - we have a higher percentage of people on EBT than any other state)

 EBT is a federal program administered by the states, so the feds are putting the money on the card, the state is paying to process the paperwork.

If you'll follow me over the fold here, I'll explain how this can help you.

Your state my vary, but EBT is a federal program, so unlike unemployment benefits, health care and welfare, the state doesn't save any money by cutting your benefits.  If they could throw you off completely, they could fire some social workers, but other than that, whether you get $50 or $500, it doesn't change the amount of money in the state budget.

When you apply for EBT you are told your benefits last until X months from now, then you need to re-apply.  That's when you HAVE TO RE-APPLY, but you CAN re-apply sooner.  If you were making good money in November and December, but now are only getting 1 or 2 shifts a week, your wages may have gone down $500 to $800 or more per month.  That would get you $125 to $200 more a month in EBT.  And I bet you could use that about now, with everyone's heating bill so high, and all the Christmas checks spent.

Most states have a form called the "Monthly Change Report".  If you fill that out and enclose copies of your pay stubs, they will re-calculate your benefits. Send COPIES of the stubs, you'll still be needing all of them for the regular, every 3 or 6 month application for food stamps.  That big application, with all the rent slips and utility bills, never changes.  What I'm having you do here is just changing the income line on your existing application.

You can get this form from your local office, the place where you have your interview when you start your case.  You may be able to get in online, and they may mail it to you if you call. The thing to remember is, the Feds REQUIRE the states to adjust benefits when income changes. The states comply with this rule by having the 3 or 6 month 're-certification' appointment.  But if your info changes before the regular check in date, you can ask for them to adjust your benefits.

The 'rule of thumb' on benefits is this - for every $100 reduction in income you get $25 more in EBT.  With many retail workers loosing 2 or 3 shifts a week, this could be a huge help.

Even if your income is only down $50 a week right now, and even if it's going back up in April, you could be missing out on $200 or more by not trying this.  And remember, it's not the long form with all the receipts, it's just your most recent pay stubs.  They may call to verify something, they may ask for something more, but your case worker is doing this for hundreds of other retail workers, right now.  Please, you owe it to your kids to try.

If you live in another state, and want to correct or add to what I've said, please put the name of your state in BOLD in the comments so people can scan the comments for their area info.

If you're not on EBT, but know someone who is, consider mentioning this.

If you are upset with people being on EBT instead of having a job, just fire away. I'd rather you fuss at me than some poor mom with a crying baby, trying to figure out what to put back when she's short of benefits and cash in the check-out line.  

Originally posted to M E C on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 10:45 AM PST.

Also republished by SurviveAndThriveKos, Retail and Workplace Pragmatists - Members and Editors, and Community Spotlight.

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