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State pays a premium for use of debit card service

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington spends nearly four times what Michigan does to provide food and cash benefits via debit card. That’s just one of the findings in a recent survey of what states are paying large financial institutions to provide welfare benefits electronically.

Washington is part of a consortium of western states that contracts with JPMorgan Chase to provide welfare recipients a reloadable debit card of food and cash benefits. Washington pays JPMorgan $1.65 per client per month for the service. But that’s nearly 70-cents more than what Colorado pays JPMorgan.

Why is that? Because Washington purchased several add-ons to the contract – like interpreter services in eight foreign languages. Babs Roberts is with the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. She’s trying to negotiate down the cost of the contract, but wants to preserve those extra services.

"I think there are some that would be very difficult for us to want to give up and the interpreter services is one of them. We have a population that needs that service and it would be very hard for us to want to give that one up for example.”

Roberts wants to find out how Michigan manages to deliver electronic benefits at a cheaper cost than any other state that responded to the survey.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network


Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.