Cash assistance problems for some Georgians

Some Georgians thought the money could be turned into cash to pay bills or buy groceries, but that’s not quite how it works.

ATLANTA – Governor Brian Kemp has promised a one-time $350 payment to vulnerable Georgians to help them offset some of the negative costs of COVID-19 and deal with rising inflation.

People enrolled in Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF programs have started receiving funds. However, some have difficulty accessing and/or spending the money.

I have a question? Scroll to the end of the article to see the questions and answers.

11Alive has received numerous emails from people detailing frustrations with how the funds are distributed, issues with the use of funds, and general confusion about how to obtain cash assistance. One of those emails came from Paula Moore.

“Your cash assistance payments are available,” said Moore, who originally thought cash assistance would be good…in cash.

Then I discovered, “It’s not going to be money per se, it’s on a virtual card.”

So, the 64-year-old downloaded the virtual card to her phone; Unaware that it is tied to its own Apple Pay, herein lies one problem.

“I went to Walmart, I went to Sam’s Club and none of them accepted it,” Moore said.

Walmart and Sam’s Club do not accept Apple Pay for in-store purchases. Not only that, but the cash assistance cannot be transferred through the Cash App or Zelle, it cannot be converted into cash, and it cannot be used in stores that do not accept digital payments. The virtual card may also be declined if the cashier operates it as the wrong type of transaction.

Moore’s original plan for the money has now also turned out to be impossible.

“My radiator is supposed to be fixed next weekend, and I would have paid for it, but I can’t even do it,” she said.

Moore wonders why the money was not released in the form of a physical card or by check.

The Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) They wrote in a statement that they used the virtual card option as “the safest and fastest way to get money for Georgians…and they don’t have access to customers’ bank account.”

The Department of Homeland Security also said that people can request a physical card if they choose the US Postal Only option.

Moore thinks it’s a big problem now but feels for others in her elderly community.

“Especially with older people. I’m big but there are a lot of older me out there who don’t have any clue, they’re really ignorant,” she said.

As for the money on her card, it’s still there, as she can’t use it to withdraw cash, fix her cooler, or get groceries from certain stores at lower prices, without having to shop online.

“Forget about it,” Moore said. “It’s not worth it to me. People on SNAP go to the less expensive stores. It’s not hidden from me, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing,” Moore said.

We’ve asked several questions for the Department of Homeland Security to help people trying to use their money, and the answers to them are below.

Question and Answer:

Why didn’t the Department of Homeland Security use physical cards or paper checks or deposit money into bank accounts?

“The virtual card option was chosen because it was the safest and fastest way to get money for Georgians. The Department of Homeland Security does not have access to our customers’ bank accounts, and there are more opportunities for check fraud.”

What are the limitations of a virtual card?

If recipients attempt to transfer their card balance to Apple Cash, Cash App, or Zelle, the transfer will be denied.

Cards cannot be used to purchase money transfers or unauthorized transactions.

The card balance cannot be converted into cash. The card cannot be used in stores that do not accept digital payments.

The treatment suggested by the Department of Homeland Security includes the use of “online purchase” and “pick-up at the store,” subject to availability.

What if I don’t have an email/want a physical card?

Instructions on how to redeem the default payment will be included in email correspondence when the payment is issued. The plastic cards will be mailed to eligible Georgians who do not have their email addresses listed on the Gateway. Those who qualify, who choose to sign up for US Postal Only, will receive a physical card in the coming weeks.

What if I don’t have a smartphone?

“People can use the virtual card number, expiration date, and CVC2 code as if they were using a regular debit card.”

What are the reasons for the rejection of virtual cards in stores?

“The most common reason is that the merchant does not accept digital cards. Once you load your card into your digital wallet (Apple, Google or Samsung), it can be used in the store with merchants that accept digital cards. Just open the wallet/app on your device and follow the onscreen instructions including entering your virtual card number manually.”

“Your virtual card may appear ‘Decline’ if the teller triggers it as the wrong type of transaction. Make sure your virtual card is running as a discount transaction in the store. You may be asked to enter the discount PIN.”

“Are you trying to use your virtual card to make a purchase online or over the phone? You may be asked to provide a name and address. You will need to use the name and address of the person whose name appears on the virtual card as listed in the portal.”

“Card conflict is a problem that may occur if you accidentally touch more than one virtual card on a reader at the same time. To avoid card conflict, make sure to select the virtual card you intend to pay with before touching the reader.”

“When you use your card at a gas station, you have to pay inside rather than pay at the pump.”

For more information, limitations, and solutions for a virtual card: click here.

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