ELECTRONIC

BENEFIT

TRANSFER

A new system for distribution of food stamps

and possibly cash benefits

Information Packet

April 2001


ELECTRONIC BENEFIT

TRANSFER

A new system for distribution of food stamps

and possibly cash benefits

For more information about the

provisions of EBT or to find out who your EBT Primary County Contact is, call

Debra Garcia of Consumers Union at (415) 431-6747 or email at GarcDe@consumer.org.


ELECTRONIC

BENEFIT TRANSFER

CASH EBT

AND OTHER

COUNTY DECISIONS

April

2001


CASH

EBT FEATURES

County Decision

Each county must decide within the first half of 2001 whether to distribute

CalWORKs and/or General Assistance/Relief benefits through the Electronic Benefit

Transfer (EBT) system. Recipients in counties choosing cash EBT will use an

EBT card similar to a debit card to access their cash benefits. Under EBT, the

State will hire a private vendor to run the system.

Access to Cash Benefits

Fees

Amount of Withdrawals

Cash Access Plan

Lost or Stolen Cards

Keeping Track of Balances

Unknowns

For further information on the

provisions of EBT, please call Debra Garcia at Consumers Union at (415) 431-6747

or e-mail at GarcDe@consumer.org.

 

CASH

EBT

Advantages

Disadvantages

   
Fees and budgeting  
   
May reduce fees to recipients currently using check cashing

services to get their cash benefits; recipients will have four free cash

withdrawal transactions per month of at least $200, at selected ATMs or

POS machines

May increase cost for recipients to access their benefits

if they do not use designated free locations; after the first four cash

withdrawals, recipients will have to pay a fee to the contractor and may

have to pay a fee to the ATM or POS owner

Allows recipients to make incremental withdrawals against

their monthly benefits amount

Recipients will have to request that the CWD reinstate their

benefits if not accessed in 90 days; benefits are lost if not claimed within

270 days

Recipients can make cash withdrawals at participating ATMs Recipients may have to pay a surcharge fee to use ATMs (plus

they must pay a fee to the contractor after the first four cash withdrawals

per month)

Recipients may be able to withdraw all of their funds in one

transaction (this has not yet been decided)

Recipients may have to pay a surcharge fee to withdraw all

of their benefits at one time (this has not yet been decided)

Balances can be checked by phone at no charge; each transaction

receipt will print the remaining balance

No monthly statements will be provided; balance inquiries

at an ATM will probably have a fee

Increases familiarity with the technology of the commercial

banking system

 
   
Safety  
   
Benefits on a lost or stolen card cannot be accessed by anyone

who does not know or guess the PIN

Benefits stolen from a lost or stolen card before it is reported

will not be replaced; the recipient must report the card lost or stolen

to a toll-free number as soon as possible to protect his or her benefits

Increases safety because recipients will not have to carry

large sums of cash; purchases can be made using the EBT card

May be charged a fee to make purchases, but only if the business

also charges other debit card holders such a fee

   
Other  
   
Counties are expected to consult with advocates as they work

with the contractor to decide (along with the contractor) where the no fee

locations will be for cash withdrawals

Potential for poor cash access because the cash access plans

will be drafted after the county has already decided to use EBT for cash

benefits

Three day staggering for CalWORKs recipients in Los Angeles

County, rather than the current 10 day staggering

Unless a county obtains a waiver from the State, three day

staggering for cash benefits even in counties which do not stagger now

  Creates privacy concerns because the government can track

where recipients are accessing their benefits

  May create obstacles and reduce financial independence of

some disabled, elderly, and homebound recipients

COUNTY DECISIONS FOR EBT

Individual California counties have

many options that affect the transition to this new means of food stamp and

possibly cash assistance benefit delivery.

The following serve as brief examples

of some the decisions that counties will make and therefore are areas in which

advocates and recipients might influence the EBT system.

County Decisions about Food Stamp

Implementation

County Decisions about Cash Benefit Implementation

Unlike food stamps where the transition

to EBT is federally mandated, California counties have to chose whether or not

recipients will receive their cash benefits on this same card. If a county chooses

cash EBT, many of the decisions that counties make regarding the transition

of food stamps coupons are the same for cash. In addition to the questions listed

above under food stamp implementation, there are some other county options for

cash:

The county and the state will

work closely with the vendor to decide another key issue:

For further information on the

provisions of EBT, please call Debra Garcia at Consumers Union at (415) 431-6747

or e-mail at GarcDe@consumer.org


The following table provides

a list of the high level options as described in the EBT ITP that each county

has in regards to the implementation of EBT.

Subject

Area

Decision

Points

Timeline

(When decisions must be finalized)

Cash Decision Will the county utilize EBT to issue cash benefits?

Will county utilize EBT to issue GA/GR benefits?

Prior to EBT Contract execution
Cash Stagger Will the county request a waiver of the cash stagger requirement

from CDSS?

County Readiness Phase
  How will cash benefits be staggered? (case number, case name,

application date …)

County Readiness Phase
  How and when will clients be notified of the cash stagger? Planning and Installation Phase
Conversion Methodology Will conversion be mail-based or will cards be issued over-the-counter? County Readiness Phase
  If conversion is mail-based, which locations would be best

for walk-in training centers?

County Readiness Phase
  If conversion is over-the-counter, which locations would be

best for conversion sites?

County Readiness Phase
  How will the county convert homeless cases? Planning and Installation Phase
Conversion Staging How will conversion be staged in the county? (% of caseload;

geographically; small portion of caseload first month followed by remaining

caseload over the following two months…)

Planning and Installation Phase
On-going Card Issuance Methodology Will on-going card issuance be mail-based, over-the-counter

or a combination?

County Readiness Phase
  If mail-based, where will PIN selection equipment be located? County Readiness Phase
  If cards are issued over-the-counter, where will card issuance

sites be located?

County Readiness Phase
  How and where will the county issue cards for emergency case

situations (immediate need and expedited services)

County Readiness Phase
Card Issuance Timing When will EBT cards be issued to recipients – at the time

of application or after eligibility is established?

County Readiness Phase
Replacement Card Issuance How will replacement EBT cards be issued – over-the-counter

or via the mail?

County Readiness Phase
  If over-the-counter, what locations will be utilized for card

replacement?

County Readiness Phase
Food Stamp Coupon Conversion Will the county issue food stamp coupons to recipients who

move out of the EBT area or will the county have the EBT Contractor mail

coupons to the requesting recipient?

County Readiness Phase

updated 3/6/01