Change in Link Card Procedure


July 28, 2008 

IDHS to make it easier for customers to receive food stamp benefits

Change in Link Card procedure means customers won't have to wait in line for services

Springfield - Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary (IDHS) Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., today said Illinoisans will have a new, more convenient way to receive a Link card. Once they are eligible to receive Food Stamps or cash benefits, they will no longer have to visit their IDHS office to have their Link card issued or replaced. Starting July 28, both new and replacement Link cards will be handled through the Illinois Link Help Line and the cards will be mailed to customers' homes.

The Link card is similar to a debit card and provides IDHS customers access to their Food Stamp benefits and cash assistance, which includes TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and AABD (Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled). Before a card can be issued, customers must apply and become eligible for their benefits through their IDHS Family Community Resource Centers (FCRCs), but their cards will now be mailed, making a return visit to the FCRC unnecessary.

"It is often inconvenient for IDHS customers to make a special trip to the office and wait in line just to get a new or replacement Link card," said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. "We are now pleased to provide customers with a safe and easy way to get and use their benefits."

Everyday, more than 2700 customers across Illinois come to their local IDHS office to have their Link cards replaced. Handling card replacement through a toll-free phone call will save customers' gasoline or mass transit expenses. Working customers benefit as they will no longer need to take time off from their jobs to visit their Family Community Resource Center. The new process will also allow IDHS casework staff additional time to provide other services, including intensive case management. Families with emergency situations or those who need expedited Food Stamps will still be able to get Link cards at the FCRCs

To use the Link card, each customer has his or her own Personal Identification Number (PIN). Beginning July 28, customers will call the Illinois Link Help Line (1-800-678-LINK (5465) or TTY 1-877-765-3459) to select or change their PIN or request a replacement Link card. Customers must keep their Link card and PIN safe to prevent unauthorized purchases.

Customers may use the toll-free Illinois Link Help Line to get their account balances, select or change their PIN, report a lost or stolen card, request a replacement card be mailed to their home, check the status of a replacement card, and check purchases made with their Link card. The Link Help Desk will have an automated phone system in English, Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, and Urdu and live operators who speak English and Spanish will be available for specific functions.

Food Stamps help low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Services manages the Food Stamp Program on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). In 1997, IDHS began using the Link card to distribute both food stamp and cash benefits. The Link card can be used at authorized retailers to buy food items. Customers who receive cash assistance can use their Link card to make cash purchases at authorized retailers, or get cash from an ATM.

A family of four may qualify for a maximum monthly Food Stamp benefit of $542 if their monthly income does not exceed $2,238. However, the average monthly Food Stamp benefit in Illinois is $241 per household. In April, a record 594,590 households received Food Stamps, an increase of 4 percent over last year. The households include a total of 1.3 million people. There are 27,000 families (62,000 people) receiving cash benefits through the TANF program, and as of May 2008 there are 29,689 cases receiving AABD cash assistance.