Executives of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association (EFTA) and NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association created a new council to represent organizations involved in the development and operation of electronic benefits transfer (EBT) systems, which replace government issued checks with a payment card. The merger, named the eGovernment Payments Council, will be managed by the EFTA.
"The genesis of the merger was really that many members belonged to both our EBT Industry Council and NACHA, and they felt that it was counterproductive to have two separate entities," said Bob Bucceri, General Partner at Chaddsford Planning Associates LLC and Senior Consultant to the EFTA. "One council can achieve more critical mass. We also get a wider range of representation that works for all members."
The eGPC includes representatives from state and federal governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, payment processors, POS manufacturers, security and risk management consultants and information technology specialists.
"It's a very interindustry council in that if an issue comes up, you've got everyone who is involved in designing, developing, implementing and operating these systems now with one voice around EBT," Bucceri said. "I think the merger makes it much more likely that program improvements will happen. EBT is the next big program to see automation at the POS, so we've set our goal to find more adequate funding and convert to EBT right now."
The council's initial focus will be to work with the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service on cost models to convert the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program to EBT technology. Currently, only five states utilize EBT for the WIC program, and Bucceri's goal is to see it implemented throughout the country.
"We'd like to see all 50 states and territories have EBT for the WIC, which is a supplemental nutrition program for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers," Bucceri said. "There are a lot of complexities because most states still issue paper checks." He feels the biggest obstacle right now is the startup cost.
"However, we believe EBT implementation does away with all that by improving the integrity and reducing costs in the long run, but we need to get people's attention," he said. "To that end, we're working with the federal government to help them understand ways and models to help fund this program. Ultimately, it will help save the taxpayers money."
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