The Electronic Benefit Transfer (“EBT”) is an electronic-based system used by many different local and state governments throughout the United States to allow individuals of various general welfare and social welfare programs to receive the benefits they have qualified and entitled to obtain. Throughout the history of welfare, governments had previously used paper vouchers. However, with the advent of increased electronic-based technologies, governments have now taken advantage of the streamlined and efficient capabilities and benefits of adding an EBT system. The state or local government places funds into an electronic quasi-bank account which is linked to a debit-like card (the EBT card), which can then be used for the express purposes of the program.
Some of the general welfare and social welfare programs available through the EBT programs include TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP” – which is also known as the Food Stamp Program) and the WIC program (for the financial benefits-aspect of the WIC system).
The SNAP and TANF Programs and EBT
One of the benefits of using EBT systems is the ability to limit what types of items can be purchased with the benefits an individual receives. For example, under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, certain items can be excluded from the system so that the funds can only be used for the approved grocery products, such as milk, cheese, eggs, breakfast cereal, breads and more. More importantly, the SNAP EBT program will not allow recipients to purchase prohibited items, such as prescription drugs, alcohol and non-food items.
Additionally, the TANF welfare benefits program also uses the capabilities and limitations of the EBT system to cut down on welfare abuse and help ensure that funds are used properly.
The Use of the EBT Card
The usage of the EBT card is quite similar to a typical debit card. For example, in order to “spend” any of the balance available in your EBT account, you must use a Personal Identification Number (“PIN”). The look and feel of the card also mimics a debit or credit card, with the card having a magnetic strip in the back of the card to instantly check the EBT balance and either accept or reject the balance and transfer the necessary funds to the grocer or other merchant instantly. Because no paperwork or physical money needs to change hands, the system is an attractive method to pass money to recipients and help ensure that the funds are only spent on proper items.
The Future of the EBT System
The popularity of the EBT system has prompted the United States Congress to modify Food Stamp laws in 2008 so that all references in applicable Food Stamp laws are changed from “stamp” or “coupon” to “card” or “EBT”. Additionally, some states, including the EBT NY program (in New York state), will stagger and intertwine the SNAP and TANF benefits to try and encourage individual beneficiaries to act more prudently with the funds that they receive.
- EBT NY EBT NY The New York (“NY”) State Electronic Benefit Transfer...