WIC EBT Update
EBT Planning: Just Beginning
A bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs called the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010” was signed by the president on December 3, 2010. As part of the bill, state WIC agencies nationwide are mandated to implement WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) systems throughout the United States no later than October 1, 2020.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is encouraging states to start migrating from a paper-based benefits delivery system for WIC, to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system by providing funding for WIC EBT planning projects. California was awarded grant funds on September 17, 2010 to hire a contractor to conduct a comprehensive EBT planning and feasibility study by September 30, 2012. The feasibility study will include the following components to determine whether EBT is feasible within the State’s operating environment:
1. WIC Management Information System (MIS) Capability – Assess the readiness and practicality of adapting the WIC MIS to electronically issue and track benefits.
2. WIC Business Capacity – Assess the skills and abilities and organizational impact an EBT system will have on WIC Program and MIS staff and services.
3. Retailer Technical Capabilities – Survey a sample of WIC-approved retailers for their readiness for EBT. Assess their ability, readiness and desire to integrate EBT in their Electronic Cash Register (ECR) system.
4. Retailer Equipage – Analyze and plan for retailer equipage strategies.
5. Financial Considerations – Assess EBT effects on financial payments to vendors – through the State agency or a bank. Assess whether on-going EBT needs are best handled by internal State agency staff or an EBT processor.
6. Infrastructure Considerations – Assess WIC clinic telecommunications capabilities and any other operational issues.
7. Electronic Card Options – Examine the choices of cards for the development, testing, and evaluation of integrated EBT solutions.
8. Recommend a Technical Solution – Analyze the state of the available EBT technologies and vendors and assess whether EBT can be a cost-effective solution. Both technologies must be considered in the assessment.
9. Recommend a Plan – Based on pertinent data, recommend a 2-5 year plan for the State to pursue WIC EBT.
WIC EBT: A Better Shopping Experience
1. With WIC EBT, transactions are approved at the POS; checks – and therefore rejected checks – are eliminated. This is considered a very positive benefit of WIC EBT by vendors conducting business in states that have deployed EBT technologies.
2. Cashiers are no longer responsible for ensuring the correct foods are purchased by participants because only the prescribed foods on the Approved Product List (APL) will be able to be purchased with WIC benefits.
3. With WIC EBT cashiers are no longer required to:
· Validate the shopper’s identity; this is done through the entry of a secret PIN
· Check the “valid through” date on multiple paper food instruments because the system only allows purchases against benefits that are available within the valid-through date
· Verify manually that items being purchased are on the paper food instruments presented and in an allowable quantity; and
· Collect the participant signature
4. With WIC EBT, the time in lane, redemption errors, and a need for extensive clerk training are reduced, especially where the cash register is integrated.
5. WIC EBT presents the possibility for a “mixed basket” approach to benefit redemption. Participants, depending on the cash register system or vendor, are no longer required to physically separate WIC food items from other items; the system will sort WIC-allowable foods from non-WIC foods being purchased automatically.
6. WIC EBT reduces paper processes, while automating reconciliation and settlement, may reduce training, and will reduce errors in-lane which results in rejected WIC instruments.
For More Information
Please visit our website for quarterly EBT updates. You may also send your questions by email to: WICEBT@CDPH.ca.gov