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Mississippi battles widespread opposition to biometrics software

An effort to reduce fraud and streamline services for Mississippi’s child care centers is being met with great opposition by child care center operators and parents alike. Last year, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) issued a contract amendment to the existing electronic benefits transfer (EBT) contract with Xerox for the provision of biometric electronic time and attendance software for participants in the state’s Child Care Certificate Program. The final contract totals $12,893,449, and will run through January 31, 2018. Xerox holds a similar contract with Louisiana’s Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, valued at approximately $13 million.
A handful of child care centers are currently piloting the finger-scanning equipment that is expected to be implemented statewide in the next few months. Opponents say the money used to acquire and use the biometrics equipment would be better spent on children in need of child care services. DHS counters this by saying the scanners allow the state to more accurately reimburse child care workers for their services, and will help to preserve federally-funded program dollars and improve program integrity.
Analyst’s Take
It is interesting to see such widespread opposition to a technology that ultimately increases the security of child care centers and the integrity of the overall program. While $12 million could surely provide child care services to many additional children, the purchase of this technology should not stop additional children from entering the Child Care Certificate Program. If Mississippi proves a great monetary savings with the use of the technology, it is likely that other states will look into the use of biometrics or related technologies for their child care programs, such as the card swipe systems used in Oklahoma and Indiana.

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