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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It has now become much simpler for food stamp recipients to buy groceries in California, since the last of California's 58 counties, Amador, Calaveras, Lake, Mendocino, Placer and Tuolumne, have implemented the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system. The EBT system replaces traditional paper food stamp coupons with a reusable ATM-type debit card, making everyday shopping transactions much more efficient and convenient.
According to Kim Belshe, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, "We expect the EBT system to facilitate the enrollment of eligible Californians into the Food Stamp Program because the system helps remove the stigma often associated with using paper food stamp coupons. Additionally, the EBT system is more user-friendly, promotes self-sufficiency, and reduces the chances of fraud."
Recipients can use the EBT card to buy groceries and, in 51 California counties, obtain cash aid. For those receiving cash aid, the EBT card can be used in some department stores and, in counties including Alameda, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, at farmers' markets. Also, the U.S. Postal Service now accepts the EBT card statewide, permitting cash aid recipients to buy money orders, stamps, and other postal products.
The impetus behind the EBT project is federal welfare reform, which requires that EBT technology replace paper food stamp coupons. With the guidance and cooperation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California could accelerate the completion of its EBT system, achieving the goal of nationwide implementation.
"The USDA congratulates California on the full implementation of its statewide EBT system," said Allen Ng, western regional administrator for the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service. "California successfully converted the largest number of retailers and recipients ahead of schedule and with good stewardship of state and federal funds. We are proud of our relationship with California and look forward to working with them on future initiatives."
There are about 700,000 households receiving food stamps in California. Approximately 16,400 retailers and 25,000 ATMs take part in the EBT system statewide.