The reasons for moving from paper coupons to delivering food stamps electronically include potential reduction in the cost of administering the system and in fraud, theft and abuse of the system. Furthermore, the use of EBT is believed o reduce social stigma and embarrassment felt by recipients when using paper coupon. Therefore, using survey data collected from College Students participating in the Food Stamp Program in Alabama, the purpose of this study is to ascertain empirically if the use of EBT card for delivering food stamp benefits reduces food stamp fraud, theft, and embarrassment associated with the paper coupon. Results of descriptive analysis indicate that as expected, EBT card reduces fraud, theft, and embarrassment or social stigma associated with paper coupon. There was a common perception among these college students that the EBT system is a good way to receive food stamp benefits. Implications of the findings are discussed.
Changes in political structures and innovations in technology have altered the administration of federally-administered/state-operated benefit programs to recipients. Of special significance is the delivery system that has emerged in areas of food assistance program. In response to Vice President Gore's September 1993 call for the development of a nationwide system to deliver government benefits electronically, the Federal Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Task Force was chartered in November 1993. The challenge for the Task Force was that of making EBT, a system that began as a concept in the 1980s by the Food and Nutrition Ser vice of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nationwide in the fullest sense--one card, user friendly, with unified delivery of government funded benefits (Federal EBT Task Force 1994).
Since the Task Force's report in 1994 and the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act that required all states issue food stamps electronically by October 1, 2002, many states have implemented EBT in delivering Food Stamps to recipients and some are still going through various stages of planning and implementation (Zekeri 1999; 2000; 2003). Alabama converted to the new debit card system for issuing Food Stamps in April 1997. Alabama was the first in the nation to deliver federal program (Social Security and Supplementary Security Income) as well as state programs (Family Assistance and Food Stamps) electronically through the EBT system. Alabama worked with seven other Southern states (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee) and developed the EBT card system for issuing benefits. Food stamp recipients in Alabama receive EBT card that they present to food stores at checkouts. The recipient swipes the card through a card reader attached to an EBT terminal, and enters his or her personal identification number (PIN) using the terminal's key pad and the entire transaction amount is debited. A food stamp transaction under the electronic system does not include cash back...