Problems activating your California Gas Reimbursement Debit Card?

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Jose Ahumada was hoping to use his $350 gas tax refund from the state of California for necessities: food, gas, credit card payments.

But when he received the one-time debit card payment in the mail on Friday, the phone number required to activate the card was not operational. When he called the line, he said, he listened to a “pre-recorded message” that simply explained the state’s middle-class tax rebate program in English, then Spanish – then l call would end. There was no option to activate the card or speak with a representative, and he found no help online, he said.

“The website and customer service numbers do not provide any help or support, and the only way to activate the card is by phone,” Ahumada said.

Debit cards appear to have been sent out early to some people who have not been able to access funds for the past few days. The 800 number required for activation – the same number listed on the program’s website – had no option to activate the cards, and calling the line was the only method of initiating use of the card.

According to the state’s Franchise Tax Board, which is managing the rollout of refunds to help Californians deal with rising prices due to inflation, debit cards were due to be mailed out starting October 25. . But according to reports on social media and a few residents who spoke with The Times, many people have already received the cards in the mail, some as early as last week.

But hours after The Times learned about the tax commission issue, the phone number was updated to allow debit card users to activate by Monday evening.

On Tuesday, Catalina Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Franchise Tax Board, said “the debit card provider’s customer service line and card activation services are now available.”

Martinez said 17,500 debit cards — less than one percent of the 10 million expected to go out — were “inadvertently shipped early by our card provider.” She said the tax board became aware of the first shipments on Friday, after receiving calls from cardholders.

Martinez said the rest of the debit cards should be mailed out according to the schedule posted by the tax commission, between Oct. 25 and Dec. 10.

Californians who have received their debit cards can call 800-240-0223 to activate them.

Ahumada, who lives in the San Gabriel Valley, said Tuesday he was able to call the update line and have his card activated.

California is set to spend $9.5 billion on the payment relief program, with one-time payments ranging from $400 to $1,050 for couples who jointly filed their 2020 state income tax returns or from $200 to $700 for those who filed independently.

In addition to the 10 million debit card payments, 8 million Californians will receive refunds through direct deposit, according to state estimates. Direct deposit payments began on October 7.

Franchise Tax Board officials said it could take until the end of the year to issue all direct deposit payments and debit cards.

Frustration over the card activation process has swirled across the internet over the past few days, with many fearful of accessing their funds – some even when making direct pleas to the governor.

California residents can learn more about program eligibility through the Franchise Tax Board.

Times writer Nathan Solis contributed to this report.

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