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Thousands Could Lose Food Stamps in Cumberland Co.

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FAYETTEVILLE — A new food stamp card is replacing the traditional coupons in Cumberland County, but a lot of people haven't yet picked up or learned to use their new cards. The Department of Social Services has now extended the training period in hopes more people will show up.

Friday, the D.S.S. training center was teeming with trainees, but the department says there are still 3,000 welfare recipients who have not received the training necessary to use the new card.

Tiffany Ray did get her card and training. She had a lot of shopping to do. Instead of counting out more than $300 in food stamp coupons, she used her new Electronic Benefits Transfer card. She says it's an improvement.

The EBT card is fast and convenient with the proper training. It works like a debit card, so recipients will no longer have to go and pick up food stamps. If they show up at the center now, they will be met by a locked door. If they don't go to training, they will have to reapply for benefits.

V-Point Grocery cashier Diane McMillan believes the card will cut out fraud and cut down on confusion. Less counting, don't have to worry about counting stamps or if they got enough.

The EBT card is expected to decrease fraud, but despite its benefits, some people are having a bit of difficulty adjusting to the high-tech system.

Training will continue Saturday at two locations and continue through Thursday. An afternoon session will even be offered Sunday.

Cumberland County, along with Davie and Lincoln are testing the EBT program. The entire state will be using the card by June 1999.

The EBT program is being touted as good for everyone, even those who don't receive food stamps.

Right now, it costs $26 billion a year to help feed 26 million people. A U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows that $2.6 billion of that money was used fraudulently.

The same investigation found that 43 percent of stores that accept food stamps committed fraud or accepted stamps for illegal purchases.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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