CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – The R.I. Department of Human Services is apologizing after erroneously announcing the state would give a one-time cash payment to certain food assistance recipients.

The department clarified this week that the $600 boost would come in the form of food stamps, not cash, sparking frustration and confusion among those who say they had been counting on the money.

Viewers wrote into 12 News saying the initial information provided by DHS was misleading, and that many Rhode Islanders were banking on the extra cash assistance during the holidays.

The issue began with a social media post on Nov. 25, when DHS announced it would be providing two additional payments this month: one to RI Works families on Dec. 4, and another on Dec. 11 to families with children enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

The post said those SNAP families would receive $600 in cash. But DHS now says neither that post nor a call center recording were accurate.

The $600 would not be doled out in cash, but rather put onto recipients’ EBT cards in the form of food stamps, explained spokesperson Alisha Pina.

“After finalizing the plans to provide the SNAP benefit, we had to adjust our plan to ensure that we could provide these benefits as quickly as possible to RI families in need,” Pina wrote in an email to 12 News. “Unfortunately, this pivot meant an adjustment in how we would implement the additional SNAP benefit.” 

In addition to those currently receiving SNAP, new SNAP recipients with children who are approved before Dec. 29 will also be eligible for the boost.

“DHS is honored to offer these one-time additional benefits to RI families, particularly as the holidays approach,” Pina wrote. “To our knowledge, Rhode Island is the only State to provide these two additional payments.”

The original promise of cash was eye-catching, and some viewers told 12 News they saw it as their last hope of providing a somewhat normal Christmas for their children. One viewer said the change was “horrific,” calling for someone to be held accountable.

“DHS is acutely aware of families’ needs and feel honored to serve these families, particularly during this pandemic,” Pina said. “Our Department advocated for the use of CARES funding to support our most vulnerable families and we apologize for the confusion our messaging created. Our Department will continue to advocate for additional resources for our most vulnerable families.”

While the $600 EBT boost is set to come later in the month, Pina said on Friday the agency successfully sent money to families in RI Works, the state’s cash assistance program. The one-time bump was the equivalent of a recipient’s monthly benefit amount, according to Pina.