Saturday, May 17, 2003

State to stay with cards for food



The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - The "smart card" system Ohio uses to issue food stamps is the most expensive in the country, but the state apparently is stuck with it for now.

With no other plan in the works, Gov. Bob Taft's administration has asked the State Controlling Board to approve an unbid $44 million contract to continue use of the system for two more years.

The board meets Monday. The current contract expires June 30.

Only one other state, Wyoming, uses the "smart card," a plastic card with a computer chip that needs a special reader in the checkout line, The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday. The other states use cards with a magnetic stripe that work in stores' existing card readers.

Under the new contract, Citicorp Electronic Financial Services would get $22 million next year to run the program compared with $17 million the company is slated to receive by the end of the current budget year, June 30. The state's cost per household would increase about 25 percent, to $4.74 a month.

Jon Allen, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, attributed the $5 million increase to projections that show the number of food stamp recipients continuing to climb.

"There's no reason to believe the food stamp caseload is going to decrease," Allen said Friday.

When the contract ends June 30, Citicorp will have been paid $78 million over seven years.

Faced with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, some Ohio lawmakers are questioning the expense of sticking with smart cards. But Taft administration officials say they aren't considering conversion.

Tom Hayes, director of Job and Family Services, defends the expense, saying that the smart card is more secure and reliable than the magnetic-stripe card.

Ohio will gain an advantage by waiting two years, he said, giving the private sector time to drive down the cost.




TOP STORIES
Art museum 'free' policy begins today
No indictment in bar shooting
Voinovich feeling heat for tax vote
She was 'Here' - 2,340 times
Lunsford quits race for governor

IN THE TRISTATE
Tristate A.M. Report
Ted Berry's message lives in new city park
Bengals, league sued over PBS
Truck ban on I-75 promoted
Obituary: Charles Squeri, built food service empire
West side will be featured
Calling top high school seniors
School celebrates birthday with song

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
McNUTT: Neighborhoods
Faith Matters: Panel will discuss race

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Judge called 911 to get officer sent
Ricketts' daughter doubts beating
Two men jailed for Clermont house fire
Lebanon 'ramps up' phone installations
Nearby schools get extra classrooms

OHIO
State to stay with cards for food
Flowers last sign of Case rampage
Court ends Ohio school funding case
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
Influential teacher is honored today
Grant Co. jailer on the defense after lawsuits
Four days to the primary, candidates stump in N.Ky.
Advocate for disabled winds up degree pursuit
Richards asks feds for fraud hotline
No bond for 2 in WKU death
Kentucky News Briefs
Kentucky obituaries