Interoperable human services benefit distribution on display in Big Sky Country

Published: March 15, 2013

Contract AwardsSocial Services

With nearly 9 million enrollees nationwide, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) represents an important nutritional benefit with proven success. As stated in a previous blog, Deltek’s health and social services team has chosen March to focus on technology that assists states with the effective administration of the program.
Over the past few years, many states have begun to implement electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems to electronically deliver government program benefits and funds through card technology. Indeed, the United States Department of Agriculture requires states to use EBT for WIC food benefits by the year 2020. Given this mandate, Deltek has identified numerous opportunities across the nation for WIC EBT implementation and planning. One such opportunity we identified in Montana.
In what will likely become a nationwide trend, Montana decided to integrate its electronic payment systems to provide one card for all human services benefits. Currently, Montana uses a paper-based issuance process for WIC benefits. To obtain benefits, the program beneficiary must go into a local WIC clinic and receive printed-paper with funds to purchase approved food items. Typically, the benefits are issued three months at a time and can only be modified by physically visiting a clinic. Unsurprisingly, this system can be tedious and difficult for the beneficiary.
The two other major human services benefits, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF) cash assistance, are already utilizing an EBT system to distribute benefits. This fact creates an added level of confusion for the individual who qualifies for more than one of the state’s assistance programs. Rather than having one card with all benefits on it, the individual would have food stamps on one card and WIC benefits on a paper voucher.
In a recent RFP, Montana is seeking a vendor who can support the interoperable processing of food stamps, TANF and WIC transactions. The state currently employs a hybrid solution for its EBT system. Northrop Grumman operates the system, produces cards, manages merchants, maintains point-of-sale terminals and provides help desk services while the state maintains the hardware and software for the solution. 
It is clear that the drive toward integrated and interoperable programs and systems has found a logical home in state-based monetary benefits programs. An EBT system that is interoperable across state benefit programs will improve Montana’s ability to access and analyze data and information to ensure the integrity of the program. The system will also enable the user to establish an individual account that is linked to a centralized benefit record that reflects the cardholder’s demographic information and transaction history. Most importantly, the user has easy, secure and seamless access to all his/her important benefits.
Stay tuned this month to see WIC MIS and EBT updates from across the states. Not a Deltek subscriber? Click here to learn more about Deltek’s GovWin IQ database and take advantage of a free trial.