More Georgians redeeming $350 payments after rough rollout

Hundreds of thousands of Georgia residents have claimed the money while others wait as issues are resolved

The state is working to pay out one-time $350 aid to some of Georgia’s poorest residents, after a bumpy rollout has left some recipients struggling to redeem the payments.

So far, more than 800,000 Georgia residents have claimed the money and spent it largely on utility bills, groceries and other retail purchases. But the terms for redeeming these funds have also sowed confusion: the payments cannot be converted into cash, and recipients are encountering difficulties when trying to use the money, which has so far been paid out in the form of a virtual pre-paid card.

Since the payments first launched on Sept. 20, social media pages for the Department of Human Services have been inundated with complaints from people.

Ralph Spencer, who is from Rossville, was one of those recipients who struggled to redeem his $350.

Spencer tried to use the virtual credit card by ordering groceries at Walmart and Food City, to no avail. He then tried paying for his power, Internet, gas and water bills but no one would take it. He even called the county he lives in, but they wouldn’t take it for taxes either.

“Wow, this is useless,” said Spencer, 65, before he eventually got the card fixed. “I mean, I can’t use it, for anything.”

Spencer called the state repeatedly, and in the end was told that the card had been locked because of issues with Mastercard. The card was unlocked, and he was able to immediately pay his bills.

Kylie Winton, a spokesperson for the Department of Human Services said the agency has worked to resolve glitches with the prepaid cards, and will “continue to monitor the situation.” By Monday, Sept. 26th, a technical issue impacting some of the prepaid cards had “largely been resolved,” Winton said.

“As the fix was installed, we saw rising numbers of successful transactions using the Cash Assistance prepaid card,” she said. “We continue to monitor the situation and support Georgians’ use of the cards, informing cardholders how to use their funds and answering any questions they have as they navigate use of the cards.”

She said the department is also pulling a random sample of complaints, finding that some reasons for declined transactions have included incorrect expiration dates, invalid security codes, numbers, and insufficient funds on the cards.

In August, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that he would dole out cash payments totaling more than $1 billion to people who are enrolled in some of the state’s major benefits programs. Those programs include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF.

Kemp is using federal aid left over from the American Rescue Plan that he opposed.

At the time, the governor’s office estimated the benefits could benefit approximately 3 million Georgia residents. More than one person in each household can qualify for the payments.

Kemp, who is up for re-election in November, publicly opposed the COVID relief package that Democrats in Congress approved in March 2021.

Democrats have accused the governor of using the funds from legislation he and other Republicans opposed to curry favor with voters this close to the November election. Kemp says he’s abiding by Georgia law, which gives him unilateral control over how the money is spent.

DHS has now made a step-by-step instructional video for how to redeem the money. Winton, the DHS spokesperson, said that many of the seniors who are eligible will receive a physical card by mail in the next two to four weeks. Georgians who have the virtual card can instead order a physical one be mailed to their house.

DHS has also issued several guidelines about the $350 payments, including:

  • The money cannot be transferred to Apple Cash, Cash App, or Zelle.
  • Cards cannot be used to buy money orders or converted into cash.
  • The following transactions are forbidden: gaming, gambling, lottery tickets, adult entertainment, alcohol, tobacco, vaping, or firearms purchases.
  • In-store use requires the card to be added to a digital wallet, which contain digital versions of a person’s credit and debit cards on their phones.
  • Walmart has its own digital wallet called Walmart Pay, an app which recipients would need to download. The card can also be used directly – not via digital wallets – using the Walmart app or at