Virginia begins EBT rollout

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

under way.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be

reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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