October 31, 2005
After a year of testing and evaluation in the El Paso area, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is expanding the use of an electronic benefits smart card for purchases made by clients of the state's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. The card replaces a paper voucher system to purchase WIC-eligible foods.
Early this month, use of the new WIC Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) smart card was expanded to the Grayson County area. The Collin County area will follow in February 2006 as part of a phased statewide implementation of the system.
“A single WIC smart card, embedded with a computer chip, stores food benefits data for all members of a household participating in the WIC program,” said Hank Lundberg with the DSHS WIC EBT Development project.
“The card is loaded for each client at a WIC clinic,” Lundberg said. “Computer systems of WIC-authorized grocers read the cards at a checkout terminal and match the information to items as they are scanned.” Store computers identify WIC-approved items based on scanned product codes.
Each card contains food benefit information covering three months, calculated on a month-by-month basis. As items are purchased, the card is automatically updated with the remaining balance.
“This new WIC EBT smart card provides greater convenience and flexibility to WIC clients redeeming food benefits in the store and makes it easier for cashiers to ensure that only authorized foods are provided,” Lundberg said.
“Grocers will be paid faster through electronic redemption of food benefits than with the current paper voucher system,” Lundberg said. “Grocer reimbursement should be available in a week or less rather than the three weeks to five weeks it currently takes with WIC paper vouchers.”
As the new WIC EBT smart card is implemented throughout Texas, grocery store managers and cashiers will receive training and technical assistance in redeeming food benefits.
(News media: for more information contact Hank Lundberg, DSHS WIC Electronic Benefits Transfer Development, 512-458-7444; or Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-458-7400.)