Editor’s note: The Baltimore Banner is making this story accessible to all readers for free. Support our work by subscribing and signing up for our free daily newsletter.

The Maryland Department of Human Services will now fully reimburse stolen food and cash assistance.

The department made this change after a Baltimore Banner investigation last year found that the Maryland Department of Human Services has been failing not only to fully reimburse many theft victims, but also to properly inform them of their rights.

This new policy applies to any thefts since January 1, 2021, including previously denied claims that are now eligible for reimbursement under the new guidelines, according to a DHS memo released yesterday. In addition, the department will start reimbursing for stolen Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In light of this policy change, The Baltimore Banner compiled a brief guide for theft victims to know their rights and get fully reimbursed. It is based on legal material, including a fraud reimbursement brochure and a Reimbursement 101 document from the Homeless People’s Representation Project and the Public Justice Center.

Previously denied claims or partial reimbursements do not need to file for reimbursement, a DHS spokesperson said. The department is actively reviewing these claims and will directly refund them by April 30, 2024. To ensure a smooth refund process, the department recommends customers ensure their MD Think account is updated with their current contact information.

If you do not receive a reimbursement by April and believe that you’re still eligible for a refund, this guide could still be of use to you.

Report the theft

The first thing you should do is cancel your card, request a new one, and change your PIN number. To do this, call MD EBT Customer Service Center at 1-800-977-2222 or report the theft at www.ConnectEBT.com.

Then fill out Maryland’s EBT Fraud Claim Attestation form to apply for reimbursement. You can also submit a paper claim for reimbursement at your local DHS office or by phone at 1-833-373-5867.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

DHS has implemented a new card-locking feature, which allows you to freeze your card when not in use. To download and use the card-locking feature, follow this link.

While you wait, here is what you should know

You should get the decision within 10 days after submitting your form. The department should then:

  • Notify you of their reimbursement decision in writing
  • Restore your benefits in the full amount that was stolen
  • Give you a new EBT card

Consider appealing any decision that isn’t fully reimbursed

If you only received partial reimbursement or have been completely denied, there could be a chance it’s in violation of state law and the department’s new policy, according to advocates at the Public Justice Center and the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

Here is what they say you should know:

  • Under the state law, if DHS approved a benefits reimbursement claim, it must be for the full amount stolen.
  • DHS cannot impose a maximum for how much, and how often, you are reimbursed — a common reason DHS denies reimbursement requests.

If this happens to you, you have the right to appeal the decision through an administrative hearing.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Here’s how to appeal the decision

To request an appeal, call 1-800-322-6437 or visit your local DHS office to get the proper forms to request a hearing. Once filled out, you can fax or bring the forms in person to the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings at 11101 Gilroy Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland. The OAH can also be reached out 410-229-4266 or 410-229-4268.

Be sure to keep a copy of your appeal form for proof of filing. In the coming weeks, you should receive a letter from OAH informing you when your hearing will take place.

At your hearing, the administrative law judge will ask you to submit exhibits as proof for your case. You should submit the latest internal transmittal memo from DHS requiring full reimbursement for stolen food and cash assistance. In addition, you should submit the following Maryland codes: 5-609 and 5-610.

These are the two codes of the state benefits theft reimbursement law. They say the department must replace stolen benefits in full, including benefits stolen from Jan. 1, 2021, to Oct. 1, 2022, and that the department cannot limit the amount victims can be reimbursed.

You can get your funds temporarily reimbursed

The law also stipulates that, during the appeal process, you are entitled to “benefits pending” under state law. This means the department must replace your benefits in the full amount while you’re awaiting your hearing. To request these funds, ask your local DHS office for the reimbursement.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

After your hearing, OAH will mail a written decision to your house.

Once you get the decision, you’ll learn the Administrative Law Judge’s ruling. If they do not overturn the department’s denial, and you received “benefits pending” during your appeal process, you will need to pay back the benefits. To pay the benefits back, the department can reduce your monthly welfare amount; however, the agency account cannot take more than $10, or 5% of your monthly benefits, whichever is less.

If you’ve been denied and want to keep fighting, you’ll have to file for judicial review at your county circuit court within 30 days of the OAH decision.

Other resources

Getting benefits refunded is a complicated process at any stage, especially if you’re going through the appeals process. We’ve compiled some additional resources that could hopefully make this more manageable for you and your family. These Maryland nonprofits that can help: