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The Next Frontier in Public Benefits

Electronic Benefit Cards

By Karen K. Harris & Ji Won Kim

Electronic benefit transfers are now the primary means that states use to deliver public benefits, and a growing number of states are moving to the use of commercial-brand prepaid debit cards, or electronic payment cards. A recently passed law requires that, without a waiver, all federal nontax payments be delivered electronically. While this mechanism offers many advantages for clients over paper checks, the need for consumer protections has received insufficient attention. Proposed federal legislation would extend consumer protections to government-sponsored electronic payment cards.

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