Food stamp move to electronic system complete

The Agriculture Department has announced the end of the 'paper era' in the Food Stamp program, now that all 50 states and the U.S. territories deliver benefits via electronic transfer cards instead of paper coupons.

'The transition to the electronic benefits transfer technology has improved administration of the program, saved money and made it easier for low-income families to purchase nutritious foods for their families,' Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said today.

The electronic system cut the combined national error rate in 2003 to 6.6 percent, the lowest in program history, she said. Program accuracy has improved by 25 percent over the last three years, which resulted in a decrease in erroneous payments of nearly half a billion dollars and the payment of $173 million to eligible clients who otherwise would not have received those benefits, she said.

The electronic benefits transfer is based on the same technology used in commercial debit card systems, with recipients using a plastic card with a personal identification number to purchase eligible foods at authorized stores.

Many states also use this technology to deliver benefits under other federal programs such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Medicaid.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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