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EBT Riding The New Commercial Payments Infrastructure

EBT, the use of debit card technology to distribute nutrition benefits, such as those formerly called food stamps, dates to 1985. There were 3 principal reasons behind the launch of EBT or Electronic Benefits Transfer. They were the mitigation of fraud and abuse in the food stamp program as well as  the desire to make the distribution of benefits more efficient and user-friendly and to de-stigmatize the use of paper benefits at the store cash register.

Today, modern technology can take these goals to the next level. Mobile technology including EBT apps and mobile wallets can connect eligible beneficiaries directly with the transaction processors hired by state governments to distribute the benefits. This both reduces the opportunity for fraud and makes the use of the benefits at an authorized food retailer more convenient.

In addition, the cost benefit of EBT was originally premised on the theory that EBT transactions would "ride the existing commercial electronic payments infrastructure" rather than government paying to develop and operate a new payment system.

The day when "the existing commercial payment infrastructure" consisted solely of point-of-sale terminals and debit cards is long past. Existing payment technology now includes the ability of beneficiaries to initiated their benefit transactions on their mobile phones, just as non-benefit food shoppers do.

States can now take advantage of this technology to further secure the transaction and make it more efficient and user-friendly. The key to this is increased mobile technology.

The time is now for state agencies, EBT professionals and lawmakers to stop resting on the success of the first generation of EBT and provide EBT shoppers with the same security and convenience as not-EBT shoppers.

In addition, beneficiaries who lose their EBT cards must return to their local social services offices to have the card replaced, so that they can access their benefits. With an app on their mobile phones they can have immediate access to their benefits.

A mobile wallet can help beneficiaries better learn to how to take responsibility for managing their food spending. Currently much nutrition program fraud occurs when beneficiaries sell their EBT cards to dishonest food retailers or lose their cards. A mobile wallet holding the cardholder's current benefit balance eliminates the need to carry the EBT card on the streets where they can be stolen or misused.