Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) System
Arkansas WIC EBT
The "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010" was created to improve child nutrition. The Act requires all states to distribute WIC benefits using EBT by October 1, 2020. Arkansas WIC is in the process of shifting from a paper-based food delivery system to an EBT system and anticipates being completely statewide by the end of 2018.
Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is a system that allows recipients to use authorized government benefits to pay for items. Currently, Arkansas SNAP uses EBT. Arkansas WIC EBT is in the process of being developed and will allow participants to use an electronic benefits card instead of paper checks. This will provide more freedom to participants by allowing them to purchase only those items needed without losing all remaining benefits.
Currently, Arkansas WIC is developing a pilot program for Miller and Little River Counties that is expected to begin in 2018. The pilot project will last 3 months and will provide valuable information for the rest of the state for how to best launch WIC EBT.
Smart Card EBT
The Arkansas WIC Program determined an off-line EBT platform provides quicker integration time among retailers and will provide better efficiency in transactions for cashiers and repayments for retailers. Additionally, the off-line system allows for continuous and immediate access to benefits, regardless of communication capabilities between the host server and the retailer.
Smart cards use a microchip that contain recipient benefits, allowing for a POS (Point of Sale) system to check WIC benefits being purchased against benefits on the chip. Smart cards are more discrete than paper benefits, providing better privacy to WIC recipients. Also, an entire household's benefits (up to 6 family members) are contained on a single card. Most importantly, smart cards provide recipients the ability to purchase benefits when needed, instead of all at once. This will reduce waste and ensure benefits are effectively used. Information regarding WIC EBT can be obtained through the following downloads and links, or by contacting the WIC State Office. Vendors can click on the eWIC Vendor page for further information.
Arkansas WIC determined through comprehensive studies that an off-line platform was best for the state as it moves towards EBT in the future.
WIC EBT Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a smart card? - A smart card is what the WIC benefits will be loaded onto for the participant to use at the grocery store. Smart cards can hold up to 6 household members and all their benefits.
- Will SNAP benefits and WIC benefits be on the same card? - The smart card for the WIC program will be separate from the EBT card for the SNAP program.
- Will there be a training plan for WIC participants? - The WIC State Office is currently working on a training plan for participants. Keep watching for updates!
- Will there be a training plan for WIC staff? - The WIC State Office is currently working on a training plan for WIC staff. Keep watching for updates!
- Where will the pilot program be? - The pilot program will be located in the southwest region counties, Miller and Little River. The Miller and Little River Counties Health Units will be the first health units to have WIC EBT in the state.
- When will EBT begin in other counties? – After pilot has been successful for 3 months, Arkansas will ask the Food and Nutrition Services section of the USDA to review the pilot. After FNS has approved the pilot’s success we will turn EBT on for the rest of the state.
- Will the participants still go to the grocery store to get their benefits? - All participants will still have to go to an Arkansas WIC authorized retailer in order to purchase their WIC items.
- Will vendors accept checks and EBT cards? - With the transition to EBT, Vendors will accept both EBT cards and checks.
- What happens if a participant loses their card? - If a participant loses their eWIC card, it will be placed on the Hot Card List, and another one will be ordered. It will take 3 days for a replacement card to be issued.
- Will they be able to use their smart card at the Farmer’s Market? - No. Participants will still receive Farmer’s Market checks which can be used at specified vendors at local Farmer’s Markets.
- How will the EBT smart card work at the store? - The process will be very similar to using a debit/credit card. Participants will shop for their WIC approved items as usual. At checkout, the smart card will be inserted into the reader where WIC approved items will be deducted from the balance of the benefit package on the card. Unused benefits will remain on the card and can be used at a later time. All food benefits will expire the last day of the month at midnight.
- How will benefits be loaded onto a smart card? - Benefits will be loaded onto a smart card at WIC clinics. Clerks, CPAs, and Nutrition staff will have access to a computer system that will allow benefits to be uploaded onto the card. The card will be put into a pin pad where the participant will choose a Personal Identification Number (PIN). The PIN is chosen by the participant for security purposes and to ensure benefits are only used by them. The benefits will then be loaded onto the card and once this is complete, a receipt with the food balance information on it and the smart card will be provided to the WIC participant. The WIC participant is able to immediately shop at a WIC authorized retailer.
- Will the smart card be able to have three months’ worth of benefits loaded onto it? - Yes, the smart card will have the ability to hold 3 months’ worth of benefits. Unused benefits will expire in the same way as they do with the current check system. Participants will still have to return to the WIC clinic to receive additional benefits and nutrition education.
Roll Out Phases 2018
The purpose of the eWIC Vendor Team is “To partner with the Arkansas WIC Program in an effort to transition to EBT as efficiently and quickly as possible.” During this transition, Arkansas WIC will work to maintain strong relationships with the vendor community through eWIC Vendor Team Meetings. These meetings will provide valuable insight to current and future developments in EBT. If you are an authorized WIC vendor and are interested in participating in these meetings, contact the WIC program at ADHWICVENDOR@arkansas.gov
The eWIC Vendor Team meets during the third week of every other month via conference call. Please click below to view the meeting agendas, minutes and pictures. All authorized Arkansas WIC vendors and other representatives of the retailer community in Arkansas such as; Grocery Associations and Value Added Resellers are encouraged to participate.
Contact Brian Musick at (501) 661-2087 or Brian.Musick@Arkansas.gov to find out when the next meeting is, or to get minutes from previous meetings. To join the meeting, call toll-free 1-877-336-1831. The access code is 8951404.
Smart Card Certified Systems
Please click on the link for the list of certified point-of-sale (POS) devices to accept eWIC cards. Please contact eWIC at (501) 661-2087 for questions regarding ongoing certifications, or the steps necessary for a system to be certified.
|Approved Product List (APL file)|
|WIC UPC Approval Request Form (Universal Product Code)|