|We've got NEWS|
|Monday, January 31, 2000 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
Madison-In a bold new move to make food stamps more accessible for working families, DWD today announced they are set to begin replacing paper food stamp coupons with plastic cards indistinguishable from credit cards.
Columbia, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Jefferson, Lafayette, Marquette, Richland, Sauk, Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties will be the first to convert to the new system in February. An estimated 11,256 food stamp cases and 480 retailers will be affected.
Traditional Food Stamps are being phased out in favor of the Food Stamps Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) "Quest Card". The Quest Card is intended to look like any other debit card, and in no way indicates that the card is used to distribute public assistance benefits. The card also provides a more secure and convenient way to issue food stamp benefits. The Quest card is less likely to be lost, stolen or used for fraudulent purposes.
"These new cards will eliminate the stigma families have felt for years using their food stamps, as well as making this service easier and safer," Secretary Stewart remarked.
The Wisconsin Quest Card can be used at any participating store displaying the Quest logo. An estimated 2,315 locations statewide will accept the Quest Card. A food stamp recipient shops like any other customer and then uses the Quest Card in the checkout line like a debit card. No coupons, vouchers, or any other paperwork is required. Retailers are reimbursed electronically within one to two business days.
The Quest Card can also be used in non-traditional locations such as farmers markets, truck vendors and community support agencies.
Stewart stressed that current food stamp recipients must visit their local job center, W-2 agency or other designated site to obtain the new cards. Invitations to the Quest orientation sessions will be mailed to all current food stamp recipients shortly before roll-out in their area begins. At this orientation session, they obtain their cards, get training on how to use their card and select a Personal Identification Number (PIN).
Local agencies will follow up with cases that do not attend their orientation session to ensure they make the necessary transition to the Quest Card.
DWD is replacing paper food stamps with electronic cards as part of its general outreach program to help families access this supportive service. Previous and ongoing outreach efforts include:
DWD officials noted that these efforts are to be credited with an over 1,700 food stamp caseload increase from November 1998 to November 1999.
The implementation of the EBT card will go in regional phases beginning in February and ending in summer 2000. The phase-in will begin in the Madison area and then travel around the state.
The Quest Card is anticipated to issue over $145 million in food stamp benefits per year to over 70,000 Wisconsin residents.