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Issue Alert - Issue Alert 07-10-04

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Oct 12, 2007

Program Area:

Family Independence Program (FIP), State Disability Assistance (SDA) and Food Assistance Program (FAP)

Issue Summary:

Effective August 25th, active FIP, SDA, and FAP Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) accounts: may be accessed for up to 365 days without becoming dormant; are issued based on the recipient’s ID number; and are automatically issued for grantee changes or new openings not previously issued for grantee’s recipient ID number.

Persons Affected:

Food assistance, cash assistance, and state disability assistance recipients and applicants.

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice 320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558 E-mail:
Michigan Poverty Law Program 611 Church Street, Suite 4A Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3000 (734) 998-6100 (734) 998-9125 Fax




Food Assistance benefits and DHS cash assistance are accessed via an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card which works like a debit card.  In Michigan, the EBT card is called the Bridge Card.  Once or twice a month, depending on the benefit, DHS deposits money into the client’s active EBT account.


Active cash and food EBT accounts which had not been accessed by recipients within a consecutive 90 day period became “dormant” and the benefits were “frozen” by DHS.  DHS would send out a notice to this effect and the recipient would then be required to contact his or her specialist in order to have the benefits reinstated.


In the past, EBT cards were issued based on the recipient’s DHS case number.  It was possible for a recipient to receive cash benefits on one EBT card and food benefits on a separate EBT card (with two different case numbers).



What's Happening?

As of August 25th:

Dormant accounts

Active cash and food EBT accounts which have not been accessed by recipients in over 90 days will no longer become dormant.  Benefits will continue to be deposited into active accounts and recipients will have access to their benefits for up to 365 days.  If benefits are not accessed within 365 days, they will no longer be available.

Changes in the recipient’s EBT number

EBT cards will be issued based on the recipient’s ID number rather than the case number.  During the transition, for clients with two EBT cards, DHS will deposit all cash benefits to the EBT card currently being used to access food benefits.  Recipients may continue to utilize the cash EBT card to access cash benefits which were deposited prior to August 25th.  When all cash benefits have been accessed and the balance is $0, the recipient may be advised to destroy this card and continue using the food EBT card to access both food and cash benefits.  

Grantee Changes

EBT cards will automatically be issued for grantee changes and new case openings in which the previous EBT card was not issued based on the grantee’s ID number.  If the grantee on a case changes, existing benefits in the account will not transfer to the new grantee’s EBT card.  The previous grantee retains access to the benefits in his or her account.  Any subsequent benefits will be added to the new grantee’s EBT card.

What Should Advocates Do?

Advocates should ensure that their clients are aware of the EBT changes, especially those clients who receive cash and food benefits on separate cards as well as the clients experiencing a grantee change on their case. 

What Should Clients Do?

Clients who have questions about any of the EBT changes should contact their caseworker or the Food and Nutrition Helpline at (800) 481-4989.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee.

You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at

You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.