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Archive for Saturday, November 2, 1996

WELFARE CARDS HIT GLITCH LOCALLY

November 2, 1996

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Some welfare recipients still haven't picked up new computer payment cards; some may not have known they were supposed to.

The rollout of new computerized cards for Douglas County's 1,900 welfare recipients didn't go quite as smoothly as state officials had hoped.

By Friday, when the yellow Kansas Vision cards became required for food stamp and cash welfare payments in Douglas County, at least 200 of the cards still hadn't been picked up.

Some Douglas County welfare recipients may be expecting checks or food stamps in their mail today, but they won't find them. Instead, they'll have to go to the state Social and Rehabilitation Services office at 1901 Del., or to the office of the Vision Card contractor, Deluxe Data, at 1910 Haskell Ave., to pick up a card. But the offices are closed weekends, so they won't be available until Monday.

SRS officials said Friday that some welfare recipients may not have received a letter in the mail explaining the procedures for picking up the cards, which were introduced last month in Leavenworth County and the Kansas City area. By next spring they will be used throughout the state.

"There was some indication that there were letters that were never delivered," said Ernie Dyer, an SRS community relations specialist in Lawrence. "I don't know how many of those letters there might have been. It does appear there was some problem in getting the letter."

The cards resemble bank ATM cards, and the state is slowly introducing them in each of Kansas' 105 counties. In doing so, Kansas becomes the sixth state to switch to an electronic welfare system. The welfare reform bill passed by Congress this year requires all states to have such systems in place within six years.

The cards eliminate the need for paper food stamps. Instead, food stamp accounts are tracked by computer, and food stamp purchases can be made just like a point-of-sale purchase using an ATM or bank card at a grocery store with the right equipment. Most major supermarkets in Lawrence can handle the cards.

The cards can also be used in ATM machines to withdraw cash for those who receive cash welfare assistance.

State officials hope the cards will be more convenient for users. They also hope the cards will help the state crack down on welfare fraud.

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