CommonWealth Magazine, WWLP, and CBS News recently reported on a class action lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute against the Department of Transitional Assistance that would require the state to pay food benefit recipients back aid money stolen through “skimming.” “Skimming” is a technique by which criminals attach a device to a point-of-sale terminal, such as an ATM or a store’s card-swiping machine, to steal the household’s account number and PIN. MLRI attorneys Deborah Harris and Betsy Gwin (pictured above) were quoted in news coverage of the lawsuit.
Below are excerpts of the articles.
CommonWealth Magazine (Nov. 7):
“What should not happen is that somebody fills up their grocery cart at the supermarket, gets to the checkout line and discovers there are no benefits in the account and they can’t feed their family that month,” said Deborah Harris, a Massachusetts Law Reform Institute attorney who filed the suit. “That is not acceptable. Either the federal government or the states have to step up to the plate.”
WWLP (Nov. 8):
Plaintiffs allege that DTA declined to restore the stolen and spent amounts because the U.S. Department of Agriculture “has told states that USDA, which in most cases pays the full cost of SNAP benefits, will not cover the restoration costs,” the lawsuit reads. “Low-income families count on their SNAP benefits to put food on the table each month,” Betsy Gwin, a staff attorney at MLRI, said in a statement. “When criminals steal families’ SNAP, our federal and state governments must step up to restore the lost benefits.”
CBS News (Nov. 18):
The cases in Massachusetts may represent just a fraction of Americans who lose their benefits to theft, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month flagging it as a growing problem. About 41 million Americans currently rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP —the formal name of the food-stamp program — for food assistance.
Skimming “is an extensive issue that extends across the country,” Gwin added. “The difference we see is the lack of federal protections for EBT users.”