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Georgia cash assistance | Some still waiting on money

More than $1 billion in one-time payments was sent to lower income Georgians in September. Three months later, $235 million remains to be claimed.

ATLANTA — It's a new year, but some people tell 11Alive they are still waiting on money promised from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office last year.

According to state numbers, more than $1 billion was sent to more than three million lower income Georgians since the cash assistance program launched Sept. 20. But more than $235 million of that funding has not been claimed to date. 

Rebecca Jean Pratt, who lives in Kennesaw, is one of those who has not been able to get a state representative on the phone to help with card access.

“It’s kind of like a tease,” Pratt, a senior citizen living on a fixed income, told 11Alive. “Here it is but you can't use it.”

Pratt is currently on a fixed income, with doctors’ appointments and new medical bills after being diagnosed with cancer. She said the $350 payment would be helpful to buy groceries or help pay her insurance deductible. 

But she said her client ID needed to activate the card never arrived in the mail, and she’s been stuck trying to reach someone since.

“If I can't get through the line to talk to somebody evidently I’m not the only one having issues with this card,” Pratt said.

Lindsey Anderson, an attorney with Atlanta Legal Aid, has also been fielding client questions about how to access the funds. With prices on just about everything rising, Anderson said $350 makes a difference. 

"That's huge for a lot of clients," she said. "We see people on fixed incomes of $1,000 or less sometimes."

The Georgia Department of Human Services confirmed there is still confusion around locating the client IDs and pointed to its FAQs on the department's website

11Alive also learned that calling the customer support phone number on the back of the card without that ID can be a dead end. A spokesperson for DHS clarified that a third party vendor runs that number, and it should be used for help activating or re-reactivating the card.

Those needing to find a client ID or password reset must instead call the DHS Gateway help desk for support: 1-877-423-4746 

DHS branch offices are also open and available for in-person support, the spokesperson told 11Alive. 

Anderson, who has tried calling multiple times on behalf of her client, said continued attention is needed for those still struggling to access the funds. 

"I want people not to forget about this," she said. "I would just urge us to keep this in the front of our minds until every last dollar is spent to the person entitled to it."

With millions still unclaimed, DHS tells 11Alive that there is no deadline to claim the money. 

"We want eligible customers to be able to activate and use their cards, and efforts are being made to reach those who have yet to activate and to help anyone who has activated but not yet used their card," the spokesperson said. 

11Alive pressed for details on how the department would be reaching out to individuals with available funds but received no specifics. 

For phone help locating a client ID or resetting a password, call 1-877-423-4746. The following steps detail the phone line prompts and can help walk you through the process. 

  1. Initial recording reads as "Thank you for calling the Georgia Department of Human Services, for English, press 1" (other languages, follow subsequent options)
  2. "If you are calling about the cash assistance program," press 1
  3. "Thank you for calling Georgia Division of Family and Children Services, for English press 1"
  4. You'll hear a message about case updates via text messages, when prompted press 2
  5. Wait for this prompt: "If you've recently applied for new benefits, renewal benefits or already receiving any benefits," then press 1
  6. Wait for this prompt: "For technical help with Gateway website," press 4
  7. Wait for this prompt: "For technical help with Gateway website," press 1
  8. You may hear a message about increased call volume; the phone will beep and sounds like it's been disconnected. Wait until the line starts ringing. There will be a message confirming you'd like a callback. Confirm your callback number.

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