Advocates are making a final push this week to ensure people who have had their safety net benefits stolen receive full compensation as part of any finalized state budget agreement in New York. 

A coalition of organizations supporting low-income New Yorkers in letters to top Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul this week called for a variety of stipulations for compensation of the loss of benefits through what's known as "skimming." 

Affected people include those who receive support from programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance and P-EBT.

"The recipients of public benefits are some of the lowest-income people in New York, and when they are victimized by skimming, they often lose everything they had to meet their household food needs, pay rent, and meet basic living expenses," Empire Justice Center said in a statement. "As a matter of basic fairness, when money is stolen from their benefits cards, they should be reimbursed just like people with credit cards or debit cards. New York should compensate skimming victims in full for their losses."

Signing onto the letters to Hochul and legislative leaders included organizations like Empire Justice Center, No Kid Hungry New York and the Center for Elder Law & Justice. 

At issue is an estimated thousands of low-income New Yorkers losing money in food stamps, cash assistance and other public benefits when their electronic benefit card data is stolen through point-of-sale terminals. 

State lawmakers and the governor are discussing ways of providing compensation to victims. But advocates are worried people who have lost money will not receive full support in the budget. 

In the letter, officials are urged to support full compensation, reimburse all victims retroactively to Jan. 1, 2022, reissue benefits within 10 days in order to minimize harm to households and provide victims with a fair hearing and notice. 

"Public benefits recipients are uniquely vulnerable to card skimming because EBT card technology is so out of date," the letter stated. "They are among the most economically vulnerable New Yorkers, but when they are victimized through card skimming, they are not compensated like a credit card customer would be."

Earlier this year, state Sen. Roxanne Persaud and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas proposed a measure to require the state to reimburse victims of identity theft within a week of the stolen funds being verified. Thefts that have occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2022 would qualify. She also called for enhanced security for EBT cards. 

The provision was introduced to address a federal bill requiring reimbursement of money that would be less than the amount of public assistance stolen or the amount provided during the two most recent months before the theft.