An Advocate’s Guide to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) in California

INTRODUCTION

This Advocate’s Guide was prepared by the Alameda County Community Food Bank and the West Coast Regional Office of Consumers Union to provide community-based organizations, advocates, and recipients throughout California with information they may need to participate in the transition to the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system in their counties. EBT is an electronic delivery system for use by recipients to access public assistance benefits. California counties will be transitioning to the EBT system for food stamp benefits over the next two years. At the same time, a majority of these counties will also be transitioning to EBT to distribute cash benefits.

For many recipients, EBT represents a dramatic change in the way they are accustomed to receiving benefits and managing their finances. Ensuring that recipients have a positive experience with the new system is a goal of all of those who are involved in the EBT transition process. The EBT system also requires county welfare departments to significantly change the way they deliver services to their clients. Establishing successful new policies and procedures that work well for recipients and county welfare department staff are essential for the effective delivery of benefits through EBT.

Two pilot counties in California have successfully converted to the new EBT system. Their county welfare departments are reviewing their newly established policies and procedures for EBT and are making changes where necessary. The majority of recipients in the pilot counties are successfully using EBT. A large part of this Guide is based on EBT implementation experiences in Alameda County, one of the two California pilot counties. We have included many of the successes and challenges of the transition to EBT in this pilot county, as well as suggestions for how advocates and recipients can work toward the successful implementation of EBT in their counties.

This Guide covers the following areas: a general overview of EBT; advocate and recipient participation in the EBT transition process; county decisions and considerations for EBT; training and outreach; and the pilot evaluation process. For convenience and quick reference, the Guide includes a glossary of EBT-related terms, an index, and an appendix. A list of helpful websites and contacts is also included.

It has been the experience of advocates and county welfare department staff in Alameda County that collaboration between the community and county welfare department has resulted in a more successful EBT transition for the majority of recipients. We hope that this Guide will help to facilitate the process of collaboration between other communities and county welfare departments to ensure a smooth and successful transition to the EBT system in their counties.

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