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State payments to Georgians on government assistance create hurdles for some

Some Georgia residents say they’re having a hard time accessing and spending payments from the state.

Georgia is making $350 payments to more than 3 million residents who benefit from Medicaid, subsidized child health insurance, food stamps or cash welfare assistance. Some recipients have been able to access the money, with the state saying more than 270,000 people claimed $95.5 million in the first three days of the program. That includes $30 million that has already been spent through more than 580,000 transactions.

But other recipients have run into hurdles in spending the payments. Funds from the program can’t be converted into cash or a money order, which some people commenting on social media said is the only way they can pay their rent. Although the money can be used like a credit or debit card, if users transfer the money to an Apple electronic wallet, it can’t be used to make in-store purchases at Walmart because Walmart only accepts Apple Pay online. The department warned Thursday that some other merchants also don’t accept virtual card payments.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced the plan to spend up to $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 aid on the payments in August. The state started transmitting the money electronically to benefit recipients on Tuesday.