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Meeting EBT Standards for WIC Systems

Meeting EBT Standards for WIC Systems

About Arizona WIC

The Arizona Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides nutrition education and breastfeeding support services, supplemental nutritious foods, and referrals to health and social services. WIC serves pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women; infants; and children under the age of five who are determined to be at nutritional risk.

Arizona WIC also leads a collaborative consortium whose partners and participants include America Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and the Navajo Nation.

CMA has more than 25 years of WIC experience in the United States, and has been working with ADHS since 1998. 

The eWIC program integrates Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) into its existing Health and Nutrition Delivery System (HANDS), which was implemented across the state in 2014. 

Business Case

By passing The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture mandated that all WIC agencies and programs utilize an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system by Oct. 1, 2020. 

Fiscal responsibility is also a high priority for WIC agencies. AS a program, WIC needs to maintain efficiency while maximizing outcomes. Ensuring WIC technology systems are modern and up-to-date helps ensure this efficiency. 

Before eWIC was launched, retailers were waiting sometimes more than 60 days to receive WIC payments. In addition, businesses faced difficulties with rejected checks, error prone transactions, and an inefficient checkout process. 

When speaking of the voucher system before eWIC, Celia Nabor, Arizona State WIC Director at ADHS, said, “Probably around 15 types of errors can occur, which results in decreased payments, no payment, or a longer turnaround to get paid.”

The Solution

By launching EBT functionality in HANDS well before the federal mandate, Arizona chose to stay at the forefront of technological innovation in support of its people. 

Together with CMA, Arizona started an eWIC program began with a pilot in Casa Grande on June 19, 2017, and was rolled out in a phased approach over a six to nine-week timeframe. Following the launch of Arizona’s eWIC program, ADHS and CMA will also implement the update to the Navajo Nation, Guam, Mariana Islands, and the American Samoa. 

With Arizona’s launch of the EBT delivery method into WIC, the program was implemented a full two and a half years ahead of the federal mandate.

The Results

Both families and retailers experienced benefits when HANDS incorporated EBT functionality. 

The new EBT method will provide businesses cost-saving opportunities by automating purchases, re-imbursements and inventory management. Additionally, grocers will now be able to receive payment for WIC purchases by the next day. 

For WIC families, the eWIC card enhances the shopping process. Users have more control of their grocery list and quantities per trip. The eWIC card is preloaded with the approved grocery list, and has real-time access to the HANDS database. 

The EBT method provides state administrators with a greater ability to monitor, audit, and analyze expenditures, all while reducing waste and potential fraud and issues within the WIC program. 


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