Electronic Publications from the Food Assistance & Nutrition Research Program No. (EFAN-02007) 177 pp

June 2002

Effects of EBT Customer Service Waivers on Food Stamp Recipients: Final Report

Most State agencies are now using electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems to issue food stamp benefits. To promote operational efficiency, some States have received waivers of certain rules governing EBT use. An exploratory study was conducted to ascertain the effects of these waivers on food stamp recipients. The results show that two of the waivers-those allowing recipients to select their own personal identification numbers and to receive EBT training by mail rather than in person-cause new food stamp recipients in waiver States to have more difficulties in using the electronic system than new recipients in nonwaiver States. Further, the difficulties are more apparent among the elderly or disabled. However, the problems tend to disappear as new users gain EBT experience. A third waiver, extending time for card replacement via mail, showed mixed benefits for recipients, most of whom prefer to pick up the card at a food stamp office. Perhaps the most important conclusion is that the customer service waivers do not affect recipient satisfaction with the EBT system; the high level of satisfaction that they expressed suggests that most problems with the waivers are either transitory or minor.

Keywords: EBT, new recipients, customer service, vulnerable subgroups, recipient satisfaction

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