Assessing the Benefits and Problems Associated with the Use of Electronic Benefits Transfer for Food Stamps in Macon County, Alabama
Research Center: Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University
Investigator: Zekeri, Andrew A.
Institution: Tuskegee University
Andrew A. Zekeri
Department of Sociology
Tuskegee, AL 36088
Zekeri collected qualitative and survey data in Macon
County, AL, to examine the benefits and problems
associated with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)
from the recipients’ point of view. Recipients were
asked to identify benefits and problems with using
EBT and whether EBT reduces benefit waste, fraud,
and abuse. Of the 1,100 food stamp recipients in the
county randomly selected to participate in the study,
857 responded to the questionnaire.
Zekeri found a majority of the sampled recipients
(75.3 percent) felt that the EBT system is a “good”
method of delivering Food Stamp Program benefits.
Sixteen percent rated the system “fair.” Only a few
respondents rated EBT “poor.” The responses to other
questions indicated that large majorities of Macon
County food stamp recipients prefer EBT to coupons.
Most respondents (74 percent) found the EBT card
easier and better to use than paper coupons.
Approximately 63 percent said the system reduces the
stigma associated with using food stamps in grocery
Most recipients (87 percent) believe the EBT system is
a safe method of delivering food stamp benefits.
Seventy-nine percent felt that EBT is more reliable and
secure than coupons. According to recipients, then,
the EBT system may reduce costs of issuing and
redeeming program benefits by reducing losses from
fraud and abuse.
Overall, food stamp recipients in Macon County, AL,
who have experienced both the EBT and coupon systems
overwhelmingly prefer EBT. Reasons reported
for preferring EBT included general convenience,
increased security against loss or theft, and reduced
embarrassment or stigma.
The majority of food stamp recipients surveyed saw no
major problems with the EBT system. Nearly threefourths
of all respondents indicated that there were no
problems with the system. Specific issues respondents
rated as “not a problem” included using the card to
buy food (84 percent), keeping the Personal
Identification Number (PIN) secret, knowing your
Food Stamp account balance (79 percent), taking good
care of the card (75 percent), getting help from store
cashiers (75 percent), remembering your Personal
Identification Number or changing it (67 percent),
replacing lost cards (66 percent), and using the card
outside of Alabama (61 percent).