Minutes of quarterly July 2014 Retail Advisory Council are posted

Click on the “Minutes” link for the 2014-07-10 Grocer Advisory Council, in the right hand notescolumn, to read about the meeting. We introduced our new EBT contractor – Xerox, detailed the implementation timeline, and announced that Rutland will be our pilot District Office.

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Vermont Department of Health receives national accreditation

The Vermont Department of Health is among the first five state health departments to achieve national accreditation by the  awardPublic Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). The national accreditation program works to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing the quality and performance of the nation’s Tribal, state, local and territorial public health departments.

“I am very proud to say that Vermont is one of the first state health departments to achieve this distinction,” said Health Commissioner Harry Chen, MD. “This means we have demonstrated that Vermonters are served by a high performing public health department and workforce at our central offices and laboratory in Burlington, and through our 12 district offices around the state. We are working for your health every day.”

The national accreditation program, jointly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sets standards against which the nation’s more than 3,000 governmental public health departments can continuously improve the quality of their services and performance. To become accredited, a health department must undergo a rigorous, multi-faceted peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure it meets or exceeds a set of quality standards and measures. To date, five statewide health departments – Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Washington and Vermont – and 39 local health departments have been accredited.

“As one of the first state health departments established in the country, we have been working to protect and promote the health of Vermonters for more than 125 years, and we are proud to continue this long tradition,” said Dr. Chen. “By continuing to strengthen our leadership and partnerships, services and performance, we can be sure we are meeting the present and future public health needs of our state as effectively as possible.”

The Vermont WIC Program, one of the most wide-reaching programs within VDH, is proud to have contributed to this accreditation effort. We thank all of WIC’s friends in Vermont for ongoing support.

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May 2014 Update

At month’s close, the contracting process with Xerox is almost concluded. As previously noted, as soon as Xerox is on board, their first task is to review the interface design plans from our MIS contractor, Ciber, to connect our MIS system Ceres with the Xerox EBT Host. Xerox also will begin working with our retailers to ready them for connecting to Xerox for online EBT transactions.

Through the dogged persistence of the project leadership and state team, our MIS EBT project is still on time, despite the delays over the change in EBT contractor and the second procurement process. The original projected schedule (set over a year ago) named June 1, 2014 as the beginning of the next phase (Development/Implementation), and we will be holding our first Implementation Meeting with the full project management team the first week in June.

There is actually relatively little “development” involved in the project, as Ceres Computer Technician Examining Server(Vermont’s system name) is an MIS already in operation for several years in three Mountain Plains WIC state agencies. The MIS will be transferred to Vermont and operated on state servers by state IT staff. Xerox is hosting their own EBT system under a service agreement with Vermont. The only development work of note is the adjustments necessary to use Ceres for Xerox online EBT, as the Mountain Plains states currently use either paper vouchers (UT, CO) or offline EBT (WY).

State WIC staff have begun the process of configuring Ceres for our WIC operations, a process we call “Vermontizing” the MIS. This involves reviewing all the pulldown menus, checklists, interview prompts, food packages, printouts and other user interfaces, to make sure they reflect our WIC program.

Information on all our current WIC vendors has already been uploaded, and work has begun to convert existing WIC participant information from our mainframe database to Ceres specs, allowing for upload of each District Office’s caseload prior to rollout.
The Readiness Coordinator Network (RCN), our cadre of representatives from each District Office, continues to meet monthly, communicate project news to local WIC staff, and provide feedback to the project team. RCN members have also taken on projects that are part of our “Clinic Enablement” subproject. They are currently concluding their site surveys of all main and outreach clinics, documenting important information about power sources and internet and wireless access; this information will help the state team plan and implement the necessary network and other modifications necessary for clinic access to Ceres. Procurement orders have been issued for computers, screens, signature pads and other equipment for clinics, also.

The state team wants to thank everyone involved for their persistence and determination to successfully complete tasks and stay on schedule. On to the next phase!

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April 2014 update

Our project leadership and state team continue to work on securing a contract with Xerox to replace JP Morgan Chase (JPMC) as our EBT contractor for the project. Both the External Reviewer for, and the Commissioner of DII have given a strong “Go” vote to our selection of Xerox, and the current wait is simply for the machinery of state contract approval processes.

As soon as Xerox is on board, their first task will be to review the interface design plans from our WIC enterprise MIS contractor, Ciber, to connect the MIS with the Xerox EBT host. When that is complete, efforts will turn checklistto getting our retailers ready to connect to Xerox for the online EBT transactions.

Vermont state WIC staff are finalizing the new Approved Products List (APL) and food packages that will launch with our pilot, still scheduled for a May 2015 start. Selection of the WIC District Office to serve as the pilot is also underway, and should be done by mid-June 2014.

All of the major plans required for implementation — such things as Training, Testing, and so on – are ready to go. We are reaching completion of our Planning and Design phases, therefore, and hope to officially start Development/Implementation phase on June 1, 2014.

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Quarterly Update on WIC EBT activity is posted

Due to a technical problem (a fancy way to describe sending out the wrong PIN # – sorryphonebad about that), the Quarterly meeting of the VT WIC Vendor Advisory Council did not occur as planned today.

An update/report has been posted in lieu of minutes. Click HERE to read the report. If you have any questions or comments for Vermont WIC, feel free to send an email to wic@state.vt.us or to the EBT Program Project Manager at jkeller@keller-fuller.com

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Massachusetts WIC to Pilot Online EBT Summer 2014

Our WIC colleagues in Massachusetts are getting ready to launch a pilot of online WIC EBT this summer, with statewide rollout to begin in the fall. This is a huge help to our efforts in Vermont, as it means that our major chain stores and the major third party processors will already be set up with WIC EBT-ready systems by the time we go to pilot in May 2015.

We’ve surveyed the three major chains, and all three report they intend to be ready to debit_Imageparticipate in Massachusetts for pilot and roll-out. Because  documentation from USDA-FNS has established guidance standardizing key elements of online EBT, including functionality for grocer systems and standards for electronic messages from the grocer to the EBT host, if it works for Massachusetts, we can be fairly sure it’s going to work for Vermont, with little or no modifications.

Vermont WIC will still need to test the chains’ systems “end to end” to make sure VT stores can connect with the VT EBT host contractor, but this kind of testing is less complex than the initial system certification that Massachusetts WIC and grocers will need to conduct.

Our EBT contractor will work closely with independent stores to determine whether their store systems can be integrated for WIC, or in the alternative, provide a stand-beside terminal that will replace existing SNAP/3squares EBT card readers with an integrated SNAP/WIC EBT reader.

WIC in Maine, Connecticut and New York are also in planning stages for WIC EBT, and we are following their progress and working with them as well. A Congressional mandate requires all state WIC programs to move to EBT by 2020.

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JP Morgan Cancels VT WIC EBT Contract

By now you may have heard that JP Morgan Chase, our EBT Contractor, is trying to sell their prepaid card business worldwide. This includes prepaid debit cards and programs such as SNAP and WIC EBT. As a result, Vermont WIC received a notice of contract cancellation from JPMC, effective at the end of this month.  Vermont WIC is quickly pursuing options we have with other potential EBT Contractors, to move as quickly as we can to replace JPM and keep the project rolling.

We’re also continuing work on the tasks we need to accomplish regardless of who the EBT Contractor may be: building our retail vendor electronic database, developing vendor participation standards for EBT, creating our Approved Food List for the migration from home delivery to retail, and other tasks in preparation for EBT.We are fully committed to implementing WIC EBT.

We will let you know as soon as there is news to report about a new EBT Contractor. We appreciate your continued support for WIC and WIC EBT in Vermont.

If you have questions, please contact us at wic@state.vt.us.

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Minutes of January 2014 Advisory Council are posted

The minutes of our January 2014 teleconference are poste423644_355055877853030_155328717825748_1173300_1181660271_n[1]d. Topics include Retailer Enablement and the development of our Approved Products List. Here’s the link to the minutes:  CLICK HERE.

All past council minutes are available using links in the column to the right.

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It’s That Time Again – Quarterly Retail Advisory Council Teleconference

The Retail Advisory Council will meet by teleconference on Thursday, January 9MP900289613th at 1pm Eastern time.

CALL: 1-877-273-4202
PIN: 572 30 99 #

Our EBT Implementation Project is underway and there is much to report and discuss at this meeting. Our proposed agenda is:

  1. Update on Implementation Project
  2. Discussion of Retailer Enablement and Certification Plan
  3. Results of the Independent Retailer Readiness Survey
  4. Update on Approved Products List development

All WIC Retailers and friends of Vermont WIC are welcome to join the call.

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e-WIC Integration Specifications Available

Vermont WIC has posted two important documents for retail grocers and IT vendors interested in developing or installing integrated ECR/POS systems for online WIC EBT.examinepapers

Remember: Grocers must be using a WIC EBT tested and certified ECR/POS to be eligible to process WIC transactions for the full WIC food package (scheduled for pilot in May  2015). If the grocer does not run a certified WIC-integrated ECR/POS system, the grocer has the option of letting the state install a separate “stand beside” POS terminal for EBT card transactions for WIC foods. But “integrated” is better for everyone – grocer, WIC participant and Vermont WIC!

Grocers: Please forward this information to whoever works on your cash register system. Questions can be directed to me at jkeller@keller-fuller.com

  1. The Technical Implementation Guide (TIG) 2012 Version. The TIG sets the guidelines for WIC-integrated ECR/POS systems, by explaining the standards used for processing WIC Online EBT transactions and WIC Online files. The TIG applies to retail merchants, POS system integrators, cash register vendors, POS terminal vendors, third party processors and EBT Card Issuer processors.In order for a grocer system to “talk” JP Morgan’s online WIC EBT system for our 2015 pilot and 2016 statewide roll-out, the grocer ECR/POS system will need to conform to the TIG messaging standards, found in this document.

The TIG is posted on the VDH-WIC website at:
http://healthvermont.gov/wic/documents/WICEBTTechnicalImplementationGuide2012.pdf

  1. List of Online WIC Certified ECR and Card Reader Systems.  Six WIC state agencies have now certified dozens of WIC-integrated retailer systems. This means there are cash register systems and ECR software certified to already conform to the standards in the TIG, and to accurately process online WIC EBT transactions.

As part of Vermont’s WIC EBT implementation, we, too, will need to test and certify grocer systems. If a grocer is running a system that’s already certified, then obviously our job is a lot easier! If a grocer is updating their ECR/POS any time before 2016, we encourage them to seriously consider a system on this list.

The certified hardware and software inventory is posted here:
http://healthvermont.gov/wic/documents/EBT_online_certified_integrated_ECR-POS_2013Nov.pdf

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