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Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards

SECTION 173.   Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the department of transitional assistance shall provide benefits in the form of vendor payments with respect to rent and utilities whenever a determination is made that the grant has not been used in the best interests of the child or the assistance unit or other chronic misuse of benefits is occurring; provided, however, that vendor payments shall not be instituted when doing so may increase the risk of homelessness, decrease the ability to escape domestic abuse or impair the assistance unit's ability to withhold payment as a reasonable exercise of consumer or tenant rights when there is a legitimate dispute as to whether the payment is owed. The department of transitional assistance may presume mismanagement of benefits whenever shelter costs, including, but not limited to, rent, heat, fuel and utilities, have regularly not been met without reasonable cause. At eligibility determinations and redeterminations, the department shall screen households to determine if they have chronically failed to pay rent and utilities to determine if it is appropriate to institute or terminate vendor payments and shall refer those households to the housing consumer education centers and community-based resources for assistance in meeting their expenses.