The Telos Foundation has announced a partnership with startup All_EBT to host its digital food stamps solution on the Telos blockchain.
All_EBT allows electronic benefit transfer (EBT) recipients to transfer their food stamp benefits on a virtual card, which can then be used to purchase food online. This can be used with grocery/food delivery apps such as Instacart and DoorDash, for example.
The startup—which is backed by Facebook, Draper Associates, and EOS—has thus far provided 10,000 EBT recipients with virtual cards, and sees the partnership with Telos as a way to scale up to a much larger potential base of users.
Some 54 million Americans rely on food stamps, according to the company, with that number rising of late due to surging unemployment related to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing orders. The pandemic is also why the All_EBT solution may be particularly beneficial right now, as low-income recipients can tap into grocery delivery services to avoid leaving home to shop.
The Telos blockchain will be used to keep an immutable record of EBT transactions, to help verify data and minimize potential fraud.
“Other than inertia, there has been an unwillingness of public entities to move food assistance programs to digital because they have not developed an easy way to do things like verifying recipients, verifying purchase eligibility, and preventing fraud and other abuse,” said Telos Foundation CEO Suvi Rinkinen, in a release. “Blockchain can help fill in all of those gaps.
“The inability of those most in need of food to apply assistance toward safer options right now like online delivery is only deepening the social divide, weakening society’s safety net, and creating unnecessary health risk,” he added.
Tapping blockchain to improve the distribution of welfare is an intriguing potential use case. Last December, enterprise blockchain solutions company Orbs issued a report suggesting that blockchain technology could cut down on wasteful government spending by minimizing fraud in the United States’ Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps program.