Texas to distribute new welfare delivery terminals

Texas will soon begin to use new touch-screen point-of-sale terminals for

the welfare benefits system, which will allow future options such as incorporating

other state benefits into the program and providing messages to clients

on screen.

Although the new terminals from Hypercom Corp. are much more advanced than

the state's current needs — they only have to offer simple choices such

as whether to use Food Stamps or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

money — their value lies in their potential, said Michael Mahoney, communications

director of the Lone Star Card Technology Department at the Department of

Human Services.

"We really want to move the Lone Star Card away from being a welfare card

[and] to a state benefit card," he said, suggesting the state could incorporate

benefits such as child support and unemployment insurance into the system.

With the terminals connected to the World Wide Web, the screens can also

provide messages to clients, saving the department from mailings and certain

administrative work, he said.

Hypercom Corp., a subcontractor for Affiliated Computer Services Inc., will distribute 15,000 terminals

in 10,000 retail stores from July to October. The company will also train

employees to use them. ACS has a five-year, $29 million contract with the

state to manage the retail management portion of the electronic benefit

transfer system.

Texas' EBT system is the largest in the nation, distributing benefits to

1.5 million people. The system uses the Lone Star Card as a debit card;

when it is swiped at a store and the correct personal identification number

is entered, the benefits are immediately deducted from the individual's

account.

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