Service eventually will supply benefits to about 148,000 food stamp customers using a magnetic stripe "debit card" system
Virginia has become the latest state to begin a comprehensive rollout of
an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system, beginning March 1 and with
completion planned in early July.
The service will be provided under an initial three-year agreement with
CitiCorp Services Inc., and eventually will supply benefits to about 148,000
food stamp customers using a magnetic stripe "debit card" system.
Experience gained through a pilot project in Fairfax and Warren counties
showed that the state should have little trouble implementing the system,
despite "some issues concerned with training," said Amarish Jain, Virginia's
EBT project director.
About 10 percent of the stores that could have participated in the system
dropped out because their volume of food stamp customers didn't warrant
the expense, he said. Nevertheless, the program has managed a 99 percent
redemption rate of the funds that have been allocated to food stamp recipients.
State officials are exploring what other programs could be used with
the cards, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and cash payments,
which other states already have available through their EBT systems. Day
care provider payments, direct deposits and electronic funds transfer (EFT)
might also be services that could be provided through the EBT program, Jain
said, although that will depend on the results of cost/benefits analyses
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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