A lack of direction from the U.S. government is preventing the nationwide transition of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly referred to as WIC, from a voucher-based program to an electronic benefit transfer system commonly used to disseminate other government benefits such as food stamps, according to a report released last month by J.P. Treasury Services. Though the technology exists to transition WIC to EBT nationwide, the federal government must make a financial commitment to the project to enable the transition to proceed, the report contends. WIC is a federal assistance program for health care and nutrition for low-income pregnant women, infants and children younger than 5 years old. Consumers can use WIC cards at participating supermarkets. "The best possible way to distribute those benefits is EBT," Brian Kibble-Smith, J.P. Morgan Treasury executive director of public affairs and the report's author, tells CardLine sister publication ATM&Debit News. J.P. Morgan Treasury provides WIC EBT processing for the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Though the report outlines many cost-saving benefits of WIC EBT, some states that attempted the transition went back to vouchers because government grants did not cover the full cost of conversion. In June 2005, Ohio WIC officials converted back to vouchers because "they did not believe they could afford EBT within their nutrition services and administration grant," the Food and Nutrition Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, notes in an e-mail message to ATM&Debit News.

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