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New Yorkers Receiving SNAP and Temporary Assistance Are Urged to Plan Ahead This Weekend as Benefits Will Be Unavailable for a Short Period

All efforts being made to minimize impact to recipients

September 18, 2014 - The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has alerted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and Temporary Assistance recipients that this Sunday, September 21, 2014, from midnight until no later than noon that day, their benefits will be unavailable while a system change is made.

For the past several months, OTDA has been working closely with local leaders and advocates throughout this process so that as many people as possible in the affected communities are aware of the EBT system downtime. “Thousands of New Yorkers depend on these vital services to help support their families. That is why I have directed OTDA staff to expedite the EBT system change. I urge all recipients of these important benefits to do their shopping and make cash withdrawals now, so they will not be inconvenienced during the short switch over,” said OTDA Commissioner Kristin M. Proud.

This temporary interruption in services is necessary to allow a new contractor to take over operating the EBT system. During this time, SNAP recipients will not be able to make food purchases with their SNAP benefits using the EBT cards, and Temporary Assistance recipients will not be able to use their EBT cards to make purchases or withdraw cash. There will be no impact on Medicaid recipients’ ability to use their cards to access medical benefits.

After the conversion to the new contractor is complete, current EBT cards will continue to work as usual. There is no need for cardholders to replace their cards.

OTDA is making efforts to assure that the vendors meet the noontime goal to minimize the impact on all recipients and in particular the Jewish community as they prepare for Rosh Hashanah.

Why do the conversion on this Sunday?

September 21 was selected because EBT historical transition data shows that the third weekend of the month has the lightest transaction volume. The transition cannot happen earlier in the month when SNAP benefits are being posted to accounts for the new monthly cycle.

Why do the conversion in September?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will not allow New York State to conduct the conversion in November or December.

Why is OTDA changing EBT vendors?

The EBT contract conversion is required in accordance with State Finance Law procurement rules because the contract with the existing vendor is expiring and no further contract extensions are available. OTDA engaged in a competitive procurement process to retain a new vendor.

Where can SNAP and Temporary Assistance recipients find more information?

OTDA has posted the date and time of the transition to its website (www.otda.ny.gov), to the myBenefits website (www.mybenefits.ny.gov), to the OTDA hotline (1-800-342-3009), and to the EBT hotline. The information on the websites is accessible in eight languages, and the OTDA hotline message is available in English and Spanish. OTDA notified the state 211 helpline and New York City’s 311 helpline about the EBT system downtime.

OTDA has also posted information about the September 21 downtime in these other places:

  • Local social services department offices
  • OTDA social media sites (Facebook and Twitter)
  • Public assistance and SNAP client notices

At OTDA’s request, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service sent a letter from OTDA notifying all retailers authorized to accept SNAP benefits in NYS. Third party processors and other commercial merchants (retailers) currently accepting EBT cards for cash purchases were contacted directly by the new EBT vendor one week prior to the conversion weekend and informed of the conversion downtime.

All EBT cardholders were notified by letter over the summer and were encouraged to plan ahead for the system downtime. New Yorkers who receive cash public assistance benefits may want to prepare for the downtime by withdrawing available benefits in advance of September 21 from their cash public assistance accounts using their EBT cards.

If you are in need of food assistance during the EBT downtime period, please visit your nearest food pantry or soup kitchen that is usually open on Sundays. If you are in New York City, you may call the NYC Hunger Hotline number (1-866-888-8777) for information on the location and hours of operation of food assistance sites. For information on food assistance sites outside New York City that will be open on Sunday, please call the OTDA hotline number at 1-800-342-3009.

While the system is down on September 21, the EBT cardholder helpline (1-888-328-6399) will not be available. Call center agents will be available to answer calls placed to the OTDA hotline (1-800-342-3009) from 9:00 a.m. on September 20 until 5:00 p.m. on September 21, including during the overnight hours.

Once the conversion is complete and cards can be used again, OTDA will post messages saying the system is working again. Cardholders can check the OTDA hotline, OTDA website, myBenefits website and Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, visit http://otda.ny.gov/.

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