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12:42 PM

Contracting to Managing the Farmers Market EBT Equipment Program

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has posted a Request for Information to determine the feasibility of a small business set-aside to provide Farmers Market Support Services on behalf of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

It is the intention of the Food and Nutrition Service of USDA to issue a procurement for the subject requirement in Fiscal Year 2018. The Service is seeking statements of capability from interested parties who might potentially submit an offer to provide the subject requirement.

This will be a small-business set-aside for a businesses that demonstrate the experience and staffing to perform the subject requirement as stated in its capability statement.

The Government is seeking responses from qualified small businesses able to providing "performance-based contractual support for the Electronic Benefit Transfer Equipment Program".

The contractor will be responsible for administering the distribution of EBT Electronic-Payment terminals and services to Farmers Markets and farmers who sell directly to the public and who are authorized to be reimbursed by USDA for the cost of eligible food covered by the SNAP (Nee Food Stamp) program.

The Request for Information number is P-18-011. Interested vendors can find the RFI through the federal business opportunities website,, by searching for this number.

The NAICS number for this procurement is 522320, financial transaction processing. The small business threshold is 38.5 million dollars.

There is a very specific set of requirements which you are advised to read before submitting an offer.

If you are interested in this opportunity, questions are due to the agency by Friday, December 1. Email your questions to with a copy to
12:31 PM

Negotiating Government Contracts

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Negotiating Government Contracts

The following advice is based of 30 years of experience negotiating contracts with government agencies. The basic rule that many contractors forget is that contractors and their client agencies are on the same side of the table. The agency is not the adversary. The adversary on the other side of the table is the status quo. The agency has a problem to solve and you presumable have the solution. Or what you believe is the solution.

Sure, both the contractor and the agency want to cut a deal that best benefits it. But government contracting is not a zero-sum game. Neither should want to irreparably harm a mutually beneficial relationship. If the agency overpays for the solution the contract could be voided and the agency could go back out to bid. If the negotiations result in a contract that fails to cover your costs and a reasonable profit given what other buyers are paying for the same product or service in the same market, you will probably walk away from the opportunity and welcome a second bite at the apple in a rebid.

So, we recommend that contractors avoid adversarial posturing and accept the fact that both they and their client agency are on the same side of the negotiating table and that the adversary is not the agency but the status quo, which contractor and agency want to vanquish.

One frustrating aspect of government contracting, of which many would-be contractors may not be aware, is the bifurcation between the contracting agency and the purchasing agency. In most state governments the purchasing agency is responsible for procuring the goods and services that the other departments require in order to operate.

So the agency that will use your product or service won’t be the agency with which you will negotiate.

Another fact of which would-be contractors should be aware is that government contracts are of a specified durations such as 1, 3, or 5 years. Short durations protect the agency in the event that technological changes render your solution obsolete during the term of your contract.

So, if the initial term of the contract is up, be ready with Rev. 2 of your offering.
1:24 PM

They’re back: Biometrics were once touted as a failsafe security technology for financial payments.

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They’re back: Biometrics were once touted as a failsafe security technology for financial payments. That was until a myriad of cost, privacy and operational issues reared their heads between the conceptual and implementation phases.

Biometrics make “know your customer” a “no brainer” But while you may know who your customer is, the question is at what cost. Also unknown is which biometric technology is best suited for a particular customer base. Also, to be determined, is how to capture and securely hold customer biometric data.

In the face of these and other issues, many financial institutions and providers simply gave up and settled for other, less problematic, security technologies, such as EMV.

However, as James Bourne, editor of TechForge Media, writes is the LinkedIN Payments group blog biometrics may be making a comeback, if something that has never been can come back.

Since 2011, MasterCard has been driving an interesting biometrics project in South Africa in partnership with the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). South Africans who receive social security benefits access those benefits on a SASSA Mastercard debit card.

The single debit card replaced a system which manually disbursed cash on behalf of multiple agencies to a recipient population equal to 1/2 the general population.

The Mastercard solution allowed for multifactor authentication, including voice print, finger image, and PIN. One time per month each beneficiary must perform a proof-of-life demonstration through a voice print or finger image in order to receive his benefit for the month.

Although this is a government benefit program, beneficiaries are mandated to sign up for bank account.

The SASSA project also requirers merchants who wish to accept the SASSA card as a form of payment to have biometric readers in place at their front-end in order to process SASSA transactions. The SASSA card is an open-loop network card with a restricted-access geographic limitation, meaning that it can only be used in a pre-defined region.

While the technology is costly, the government enjoys higher payment efficiency, payment accuracy, transparency, and dramatically lower cost of disbursement operation and reduction in payment fraud estimated at 3 million.

Beneficiaries enjoy faster delivery of benefits, increased benefit accuracy, increased security through the elimination of cash and the addition of biometric protection as well as achieving financial inclusion through the mandatory bank account.

Editor Bourn provides background information on biometrics and the financial services industry and also pimps last June’s Biometrics in Banking and Financial Services Summit, an annual event.
1:23 PM

Email Etiquette

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Here are 4 common email faux pas that are rude and disrespectful and won’t win you any points from the person you are emailing and trying to impress, such as a prospective new employer. 

We are use to the wild-west atmosphere of online communications, some of which is due to the limitations of the various forms of social media. For example, the 140-character limit of Twitter doesn’t allow for a proper salutation. 

Failing to address the person whom you are emailing. This is rude and obnoxious. It would be as if you just walked up to a person on the street and started talking to him without introducing yourself. If the subject of your email is short and perfunctory you still need to be polite. And while we are at it, don’t forget a proper closing. You would never end a phone call by simply hanging up. So sign off your emails with a proper closing. Even a simple “goodbye” or “thanks” will do.

Asking your addressee to overlook any typos or other mistakes in your text. This tells the person to whom you are writing that he or she is not important enough for you to take a few moments to proof the body of your mail. It also marks you as an unserious, superficial person. 

Being tone-deaf. Email communications, by their nature, are impersonal, which is why we sometimes opt for them as our form of communication. Nevertheless, we sometimes “personalize” them by editorializing with the tone that shows how we really feel. Sometimes, we don’t even realize that we have done that. It could be a scolding tone or a “I don’t give a damn” tone. Just be aware of the effect that your tone has on your message.

Failing to read an email in its entirety. The fact that we are communicating electronically vouches for the fact that we are busy. But there is no excuse for not reading completely an email to which we are responding. Doing so is rude and insulting to the person with whom you are communicating. 

None of us is expected to be a perfect wordsmith. If William Shakespeare were writing for today’s demanding editors, Hamlet might be 5 pages. Just be aware that your emails may say more about you than you intended. Whether this extra messaging is good or bad is up to you.
12:23 PM

Is it Time to Rid Ourselves Of the Blight of Social Media

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Is it time to abolish social media? So asked Jonathan Crossfield in a recent article in Chief Content Officer magazine circulated by the Content Marketing Institute.

Unfortunately for the abolitionists, Social Media has become part of the fabric of our postmodern existence. We could just as easily abolish nuclear weapons, vulgar music lyrics, or every middle schooler having a personal website.

As Crossfield explains, there is an inherent buzzword feel to the term “social media” which makes disagreement over the meaning of social media likely in the newsroom or marketing department. This should not be unexpected in a technology that has experienced such rapid adoption.

Another issue created by this rapid proliferation of social media is that we focus more on the channel, or the medium, rather than the message.

The traditional media will report that President Trump issued another statement on Twitter, and excoriate his use of language. but rarely do they bother to report the substance of the President’s message.

However, the President’s use of Twitter fits the purpose for which social media was intended. That is to allow users to communicate directly with others. In the President’s case this means directly reaching out to voters without the filter of often-hostile reporters and editors in between them. That is called disintermediation. That is the social aspect of social media. Please see for a better understanding of the concept of disintermediation.

So who knows exactly what social media is? To try to answer that question, Crossfield turns to law makers who in their efforts to regulate the technology need to first define it. First up in this exercise in futility is the California legislature, which struggled to differentiate social media from other forms of digital communications.

The Golden State solons defined social media as “photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations”  As Crossfield points out personal photographs of the nature the Supreme Court wrestled with in trying to define pornography stored on a mobile phone would qualify as social media under this definition.

Crossfield has examined a variety of social media policies and finds them similarly lacking in the objectivity necessary for enforceable government policy. These include this attempt by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“Social media also included all other emerging electronic/digital communication applications.”

That narrows it down.

I was recently reminded of the benefits of social media in my own small home town which was the location of a road rage shooting. Law enforcement agencies credited social media for providing several clues that helped break the case quickly and bring the shooter to justice. The police were able to use the social channels to reach out directly to anyone who had pertinent information about the crime. This was 1 of 3 violent crimes lawmen here were able to solve over the last couple of months by monitoring Twitter and Facebook
2:17 PM

The Best Cities in which to Celebrate the Founding of the Repupu

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Since we are in the July 4th season we bring you a list of the best places to celebrate Independence Day compiled by our friends at WalletHub ( These cities were ranked based on 18 measurements related to how well they balance fun and cost. These metrics included the cost of beer, how long their fireworks displays last, and their July 4th weather forecast.

Based on these metrics, the best city in which to celebrate the birthday of the nation is Atlanta, Ga. The A is followed by the City by the Bay, San Francisco. Coming in third in the list is the City of Good Neighbors, the often overlooked Buffalo, NY.

Fourth in the July 4th sweepstakes is the birthday boy’s capital, Washington, DC. In fifth place is the always beautiful San Diego.

Places 6 through 10 are occupied by Madison, WI, St. Louis, MO, Milwaukee, WI, Orlando, FL, and Seattle, WA.

The WalletHub number crunchers also say that We the People plan to spend over 7 billion dollars on food this 4th. We are reputed to be the nation with the most overweight people so was there ever a doubt how we would spend the 4th. Eating our way from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania to Alaska and Hawaii. From Scrapple to Poi.

To soak up all that food we are told we will spend more than 1.6 billion dollars on beer. An estimate that places July 4th at the top of beer-guzzling holidays.

The WalletHub math whizzes figure we will spend over 800 million on fireworks this holiday.

With all those bottles of beer and bottle rockets be careful while celebrating. The statisticians predict that 2/3 of all fireworks injuries this year will occur within a month of the 4th of July.

So we have time for all that Bacchanalian eating and drinking we have FDR to thank. President Roosevelt in 1941 signed the bill that made the 4th of July a paid holiday. All that fun and you get paid for it.

Have a good time, but don’t be stupid. And don’t forget the reason for the season. Make time to take in a July 4th parade. Many veterans participate in them. Take time to thank them for their service.

Today, only 52 percent of Americans say they are proud to be American.

Tonight, after the eating and drinking are done and you have had your fill of fireworks and parades hit your knees and thank the God under whom this nation exists for all He has given this country and We the People.

1:43 PM
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Semper Avanti 
A good beach read this summer

Semper Avanti is a tale of love and redemption, of struggle and overcoming personal crisis, of being tested beyond what you think your capacity to respond is. 

On the surface, Semper Avanti details author Nancy Bucceri’s battle to hold her life and family together following word that her husband has suffered a near-fatal stroke while away on a business trip. However, any reader who has experienced personal struggle can relate to the story.

Although this plot line doesn’t seem to fit with sand, surf, and suntan lotion, as the subject of the book I can tell you that it is an uplifting story and a yarn well spun.

So far the reviews on the January 2017 release have been universally good. One reviewer wrote of Semper Avanti that the “writing is unobtrusive which serves the story well, and the narrative is breezy, funny and warm.

The review continues, “despite the subject matter, Semper Avanti is an entertaining read”.

Another reviewer calls Semper Avanti “a thoughtful and well-intentioned work that details personal crisis management” Semper Avanti, which means always forward, ends with the author’s 10 suggestions for managing personal crises.

The Lobster heartily recommends Semper Avanti. It is available in paperback or as an e-book. ISBN number 978-1-5320-0381-3. The website for Semper Avanti is You can check out the book there, order it, and register for the author’s blog series. It is also available on and And if you enjoy it, please share what you liked by posting a review.
11:19 AM

Getting High Goes High Tech

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Digital Currency Solution May Legitimize Fringe Cannabis Industry

The evolving cannabis industry is pretty much a cash-only business which provides cannabis users and thus the industry as a whole with the mask of anonymity necessary to drive retail sales. And while some two-thirds of states have legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes, the federal government which charters banks still considers cannabis an illegal drug. The specter of getting sideways with the federal government can limit the number of banks willing to take on cannabis customers.

Another drawback to this cash-driven business model is that businesses that throw off that much cash without the electronic audit trails provided by the banking system quickly will be subject to suspicions of money-laundering. This is another factor which can make it difficult for cannabis retailers or suppliers to find banks willing to provide banking services to them.

Because of such perceptions banks which are heavily regulated by the federal government may be reluctant to do business with the cannabis industry. The banking industry is itself driven by the Know Thy Customer policy which becomes the way banks view their customers. If a bank can’t know its customers and the customer’s business it may be reluctant to do business with that customer.

Such perceptions can make it more difficult for an industry that revolves around something many people did recreational in college to go mainstream and set up shop on Main Street.

The cannabis industry has a large footprint. Currently, 37 states and the District of Columbia  have legalized some form of marijuana use or possession. Nevertheless, marijuana remains illegal under federal law, hence the reluctance of federally regulated banks to get involved with the industry.

One enterprising company has stepped forward using modern banking technology, the electronic payment wallet, to step in where the banks have faltered. That company is Amercanex which bills itself as the first fully electronic cannabis marketplace.

Its CEO explains that Amercanex is is a real payment system with a regulatory framework that allows the government to regulate and collect taxes.

The Amercanex wallet, dubbed ACE Pay, provides an account and allows money to change hands electronically similar to PayPal.

8:35 AM

A Memorial Day Remembrance

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Welcome to The Lobster Shift, the Chaddsford Planning Associates blog. The "lobster shift," sometimes called the graveyard shift, is the period of work between 11:00 at night and 7:00 in the morning. In other words, the overnight shift. My father worked an overnight shift. I worked one as a reporter. Nurses, fire fighters, police, factory workers, and disc jockeys all know the joys of going to work when the family goes to bed and coming home to eat dinner when everyone else is eating breakfast.

Fact of the matter is your biorhythms never let you adjust to living your life backwards. Just as a lobster shuffles along backwards, overnight workers live their lives backwards. Breakfast at noon, dinner at daybreak; awake when everyone's asleep. Asleep--if you're lucky--when everyone's awake.

The Lobster Shift seeks to do the same thing--to provide news, commentary and analysis on business issues in the electronic payments and marketing segments--but in ways that may be contrary to how others are looking at the same topics. When you check in with this site during the day, you'll find interesting analysis and commentary on issues that may have kept us up at night.

So welcome to The Lobster Shift, to the world of contrarians.

 Now get some sleep.

A Memorial Day Remembrance

The Lobster is taking a detour on this Memorial Day. Today I ask you to stop and help me commemorate the death of my uncle in World War II. Long-time readers of The Lobster will recall this post from its original run in December, 2013.

Over 400,000 Americans were killed during World War II. Each one of them is a story to memorialize. This is my uncle's story which deserves to be repeated this Memorial Day.

Sgt. Edward H. Bucceri was a member of the 351st Bomb Group stationed at RAF Polebrook, England in World War II.  The base was 80 miles north of London. Ed died long before I was born. We know little about the incident that took his life other than it was his eighth combat mission and it occurred three days before Christmas.

What information we have is preserved in The Chronicle of the 351st Bomb Group, by Peter Harris and Ken Harbour, which is the basis of this post.

Sgt. Bucceri's plane, serial number 42-39778 and known as "Lucky Ball," was part of the 511th Squadron on a 34-plane bombing run that took off on December 22, 1943 from its base in Polebrook, England on a daylight mission to bomb a steel mill in Osnabruck, Germany. In command of Lucky Ball was the pilot, Lt. Lewis Maginn of Rochester, New York. 

It was to be the plane's fifth and final mission.

The Final Mission

According to Lt. Maginn's recollection of the event, Lucky Ball was anything but lucky on that mission. It had just been overhauled, with two engines ripped out and replaced by rebuilt ones. Lt. Maginn recalls being uneasy with the fact that the plane was pressed into service without the rebuilt engines having logged some more running time following the overhaul.

In addition to having to make the run with untested engines, two of the regular crew could not go on the mission and were replaced in the ball turret and tail gun positions.
Early into the flight, the pilot realized something was wrong. Bomb Groups assigned to the position behind them were rapidly gaining on Lucky Ball. Lt. Maginn put the hammer down to "near full power" and still found himself falling behind his formation.

And then the oil pressure in the number four engine began to drop.
The pilot killed the four engine and, being close to the target, tried to make the run with three motors. Then the oil pressure on number three began dropping.

With two engines out on one side, and an impossible task to keep up, Lt. Maginn made the decision to break formation and turn back to base. The crew jettisoned its bomb load, ammo and equipment in hopes of lightening the load on the two remaining engine.

The End

The crew then mistook an American plane for an enemy fighter and dived into a cloud bank. But the maneuver cost the crew "precious altitude," according to Lt. Maginn. Then the oil pressure in number two began to drop. 

The crew began to take flak from German fighters, worsening their altitude situation. The pilot was forced to shut down number two, leaving Lucky Ball one engine.

The crew dumped all remaining equipment, guns and ammunition and began a desperate run over the North Sea to the English coast. Sgt. Palmer, the radio man, sent out the SOS. 

But there was no luck for Lucky Ball that night as it struggled westward into a gale headwind.

With the English coastline in plain view, the crew came to the realization they would never reach it. They prepared to ditch their craft into the chop of the North Sea. 

Cruising low above the waves, the pilot cut the last engine and tried to glide to a straight landing. The bomber hit the water at 85 miles per hour, breaking in half.

Lt. Maginn describes the intense cold of the North Sea in late December as "instantly numbing." The crash landing had jammed the cables on the life rafts, forcing the crew to "take to the water," their flotation devices their only hope for survival. 

Huddled together in the freezing water they watched Lucky Ball sink below the waves. The first big wave to break over them scattered them about the sea, each man to his own.

Sgt. Palmer assured Maginn that the rescue squadrons had a fix on their position. But it would be 45 more agonizing minutes before the first boat appeared. 

During that 45 minutes as the men drifted apart, Lt. Maginn later said, "the wind and bitter cold water took its toll rapidly." Five of the ten-man crew were rescued. 

Perishing that night were the navigator, Lt. James McMorrow of Akron, Ohio, Sgts. Albert Meyer of Roswell, New Mexico, Docile Nadeau of Fort Keat Mills, Maine, and Clarence Rowlinson of Des Moines, Iowa. Sgt. Meyer was the only one whose body was recovered.

Sgts. Nadeau and Rowlinson were the replacement ball turret and tail gunners fatefully assigned to the flight that night.

The fifth crew member killed was my uncle, Sgt. Edward H. Bucceri of Jersey City, New Jersey.

No memorial marks the spot where these men went to their final rest. There was no military funeral at a national cemetery, no 21-gun salute, no honor guard. No one made a movie about the Lucky Ball's last run, and no Grammy-winning folk singer penned a mournful song . The crew that perished that night were just five of the more than 400,000 Americans killed in action in that war. Today I remember one of them.

Rest in Peace,  Ed. Merry Christmas. And thank you.

Les Fleurs de la Mémoire

A post-script: Les Fleurs de la Mémoire (The Flowers of Remembrance) Society is a French service organization. Its members “adopt” the graves of fallen American service members who are buried in the American Cemetery in Normandy. 

The father of our French nephew has adopted two such graves. Each spring the Les Fleurs de la Mémoire members decorate the American graves with fresh flowers and loving care, offering thoughtful prayers for those Americans who gave the last full measure of devotion, as Lincoln said, to a cause of liberty shared by both peoples.

The media do a good job of ginning up political conflicts between France and the U.S.  Sometimes they go so far as to suggest that the French are ungrateful for the sacrifices made by Americans in France during the World Wars. But I can tell you that nothing can be further from the truth. Les Fleurs de la Mémoire shows the strong bond between the people of the two countries. 

As a relative of someone killed in the European theater and someone who preserves that bond, I say merci.

2:50 PM

EBT the Next Generation Solutions Showcase

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EBT the Next Generation Solutions Showcase

On Tuesday, November 7, I will be hosting and moderating an Electronic Benefits Transfer Solutions Showcase at the annual EBT the Next Generation conference to be held at the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

Confirmed participants that will be demonstrating and showcasing their wares include Verifone which will be showing 2 new families of terminals, Nova Dia Group, a software development company that creates innovative solutions for the distribution of nutrition benefits, and LexisNexis, a provider of information and risk management services to government and other verticals.

As many as 3 more organizations may showcase their products. The emphasis will be on solutions and outcomes not on technology or bits-and-bytes. 

For more information on the agenda, speakers and how to register visit

Attend to learn more about how standard electronic-payment technology is being used to deliver publicly funded benefits more efficiently, safely and securely. And check back here frequently for the latest updates prior to the conference.

Now in its 20th year, EBT the Next Generation will again feature 4 workshops, 10 breakout sessions, 3 plenary sessions and over 700 minutes of networking time spread over three days. That's almost 12 hours of networking or 1 and a half business days of building relationships and business.
1:44 PM

What's Up Doc? What's Up Is That Today Is National Bugs Bunny Day

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Does it seem as if there is a national day for everything?  It does and there is. Just ask the folks at National Day Calendar.  Visit them on Facebook at NationalDayCalendar. Bugs is a national icon well deserving of his own day.

April 30 is National Bugs Bunny Day. It commemorates the first appearance of the prototypical wisecracking cartoon rabbit that came to be called Bugs Bunny. This debut came in a short film named Porky’s Hare Hunt. This short as they were known back then was released on April 30, 1938. 

It took several years for illustrators to refine Bugs’ appearance to what we recognize today. But from the beginning he had the same hell-be-damned attitude that 3 generations of movie goers and TV viewers would laugh at.

My first encounter with Bugs was when I was a small child and I locked on to a TV show that featured Warner Brothers cartoons. My next significant encounter with Bugs happened after my children were born. They were trying to find something to watch on cable TV and I joined them and found a cartoon show playing Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons including Bugs Bunny. There are worst things on cable TV.

The first voice of Bugs was actor Mel Blanc, who voiced Bugs for a half-century.

Bugs is the second cartoon character on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, following the legendary Disney staple, Mickey Mouse.

Along with his nation, Bugs went to combat in the Second World War. Two of his films were eventually pulled from circulation after the war as political and cultural sensitivities changed. They were Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips and Herr Meets the Hare.

Bugs was an honorary Marine Corp Master Sergeant in that war. The ears were a novel touch but the defiant attitude was the same. He could have been facing off against Porky Pig or an enemy sniper. Let me see what you got.
11:43 AM

Free Beer and More on Tax Day

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April 17 2016  marks the day by which all those who have earned income in the United States in 2016 must pay their federal tax on that income. In an attempt to offset the pain of Tax Day I offer a couple of presents.

First, here are eight of the most overlooked tax deductions, courtesy of the tax pros at Turbo Tax, via an online ad. 

State Sales Tax

Reinvested Dividends

Out-of-Pocket Charitable Donations

Student Loan Interest Paid by Mom and Dad

Moving Expenses Incurred to Take First Job

Dependent Child Care Tax Credit

Earned Income Tax Credit

The State Tax You Paid Last Year

Second, a number of companies are offering Tax Day presents to their members or customers. These presents include everything from free beer to a massage to ease the stress of Tax Day.

World of Beers has a free select beer or $5 off a beer waiting for you on Tax Day.

Certain Arby’s locations are offering you free curly fries on Tax Day.

Bob Evans Restaurants will take 30% off your entire purchase on Tax Day with an online coupon.

Boston Market is offering customers a Tax Day special of a half chicken individual meal with two sides, cornbread, a regular fountain drink, and a cookie.

Bruegger’s Bagels has a Big Bagel Bundle for you for only $10.40. That deal began April 12 and ends
on April 19.

McDonald’s customers at US locations who buy a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder at the regular price on Tax Day can get a second one for a penny.

Planet Fitness is partnering with HydroMassage to give away free massage. The offer is good through April 22.

This list was compiled by NBC South Florida. Check with the company’s website or your local locations of these companies to determine if they are participating in the promotion.
9:59 AM

The Theme of EBT the Next Generation 2017

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The Theme of EBT the Next Generation 2017

The planners for November’s EBT the Next Generation conference have selected a theme for this year’s show, the 20th annual event. The theme this year will be Navigating the Future.

Tied to that theme is the subject of the annual Front Page Focus plenary session, Where will the new administration take Nutrition Programs like SNAP, nee Food Stamps in the future. In policy areas like foreign relations, healthcare, and trade, the new administration has made no secret about wanting to break from the policies of prior administrations. Unknown at this point is whether that maverick attitude will imbue nutrition policy.

Once again the conference will feature 8 hours of networking time with colleagues from across the country as well as buyers, sellers and influencers in this fast growing electronic payments business, as well as 3 days of education to bring you up to speed on this exciting segment of the payments business.

For registration and hotel information, visit

Once again, the show will include 2 Technology Showcases that will highlight some of the technology product that will power the Next Generation of EBT.

Join federal officials, state representatives, processors, technology companies, and others to see what lies ahead for modernizing and securing the distribution of government transfer payments.

10:08 AM

4 Tips for Writing Press Releases that Actually Get Read

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4 Tips for Writing Press Releases that Actually Get Read

I offer this advice as a former reporter, editor and news director responsible for sorting through hundreds of releases each week.

  1.  Be Social
    1. Make keywords the foundation of your release. A keyword provides a a focal point for both you, the writer, and me, the reader. It also provides a way for others to find your release in the future. I may only spend a minute or two with your release, but on the Internet your pitch will live forever as readers search for the keywords that are the foundation of your message.
    2. Double-check to make sure that all of your copy points supports those keywords. That will keep your release tight and crisp, increasing your chances that the release will be read from the first line to the last. This will increase the chances that your story will make it into print or on the air.
    3. Include media. While reports of the death of print media are premature, we live in a multimedia world. Including images and audio file or links to them increases the odds your story will get picked up.
    4. Include links. Keep the release to 1 page. External links allow you to provide more information while you keep the release to 1 page. Whether or not I want to follow those links is up to me. All of the keywords and their supporting data should comprise the body of the release. Just don't make me work to hard to find the information. Links should not be gratuitous, but should point me to additional information that would help me understand your message. A link to an organization's data sheet would be appropriate. Keep links to a minimum and never use the same link more than once. Your organization produces a lot of information that will help me get to know you better. these are appropriate sources to link to. These could include your press release service, such as BusinessWire or PR Newswire, social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter. Many of these I will find on my own. Product slicks, customer rankings and similar internal information are more helpful.
  2. Keep your caption or headline short. A handful of word.
  3. Banks are required to know their customers. So are PR writers. I am your customer. Read my publication or listen to my newscast to know the kind of stories I need. 
  4. Always include a call to action. What do you want my audience to do. What do you want me to do. What should the outcome of the release be. You get the idea. 

12:33 PM

Why the House of Representatives Failed to Pass the American Health Care Act

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Why the House of Representatives Failed to Pass the American Health Care Act

Passing the AHCA would have overturned the status quo, ObamaCare, just as ObamaCare overturned the prior status quo, healthcare is an individual, not a government, responsibility. 

Tim Riesterer, instructor in the art of corporate storytelling, in his storytelling framework, explains that human beings have an innate bias to maintaining the status quo.

There is a good reason for this. It is called fear.  We are hard-wired to avoid danger.

We think the status quo protects us against danger in 4 ways.

1.     We prefer stability and see change as a threat to that stability.

2.     We believe the status quo is free and that there is a cost to change.  We generally like to avoid higher costs.

3.     Information overload. Too much information makes selection difficult. Staying with the status quo is easier than sorting through all of the options.

4.     We don’t change because we anticipate we will regret our decision to give up on the status quo.  We project that what we talked our colleagues in to won’t be as successful as we led them to believe it would be.

We can eliminate status quo bias in 4 ways.

1.     Weaken the status quo preference by introducing hidden challenges that make the status quo a less safe (more dangerous) course

2.     Showing the cost of inaction. Unfortunately, we tend to make decisions more often to avoid loss than to realize a gain.

3.     Contrast the status quo with the benefits of taking action to solve a problem. Paint side-by-side pictures of the current situation and the new and improved situation in order to make the case for change.

4.     Personalize the need for change.

Back to the AHCA, the Republicans who favored the proposed law failed to show that the real health care danger was not in changing the law but in not changing it.

 The GOP also failed to speak directly to the voters who were motivating the proposal’s opponents, by failing to personalize that the status quo ObamaCare would be more expensive to voters than the new American Health Care Act.

The Republican policy wonks also overwhelmed voters with statistical information, focusing on billions and trillions of federal dollars rather than thousands of dollars in personal health care outlays. Congressmen who favored the AHCA failed to convince their colleagues that failing to vote for the new healthcare bill was a vote for the status quo, which was the vote that would fraught with regret.

Republicans could have turned the situation around by undermining their colleagues’ apparent preference for the status quo. They could have accomplished this by projecting the future anger of their constituents when they saw their premiums continue to skyrocket and their health care choices dwindle.

The AHCA’s supporters should have focused their messaging like a LASER on the personal costs of not changing to the proposed new law and less on the legislative and policy nuances of the changes.

The bill’s supporters lead by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, should have driven home the personal cost issue with a side-by-side comparison of a family’s cost under ObamaCare and under the proposed AHCA. They should have learned the effectiveness of visual imagery from the Democrats’ “Paul Ryan wants to push Granny off the cliff” video ad attacking the then Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

In the scare-tactic video, a man who appears to be Paul Ryan pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair over a cliff in order to make the Democrats’ point that election of Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan would result in the death of senior citizens who are dependent on Medicare for healthcare. Ryan blamed the Granny ads for turning the country against him thus clearing the way for the election of Barack Obama, the father of ObamaCare.

Again, the ACHA supporters should have spent more time and money personalizing the advantages of change and the dangers of the status quo, by putting a face on the health care debate rather than building the messaging around dry policy issues most voters don’t pay attention to. This is something President Obama himself recognized when he trotted out little Marcelas Owens front and center at the signing ceremony for the ObamaCare legislation in March 2010.

8:13 AM

Abraham Lincoln and Healthcare Reform

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Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said in 1856 that “you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." 

Change “fool” to “please” and you have the essence of the current stalemate over the bill under consideration in Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act, known informally as ObamaCare. Congress is currently considering a Republican-crafted replacement bill dubbed the American Healthcare Act.

On one side of the divide are the congressional Republicans who have sworn for 7 years that upon assuming the majority in Congress and capturing the White House they would immediate dismantle the ACA and replace it with a more free market-oriented healthcare system.

On the other side are the Democrats, still smarting from 7 years of withering criticism of the failing ACA, which was passed and signed into law without any effort to engage Republicans on a bi-partisan healthcare solution. The Democrats are divided into establishment Dems and a more liberal bloc built around supporters of socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

This bloc largely favors a European-style Democrat Socialist, single-payer healthcare system that would eliminate private insurance companies from the healthcare market making the government the only health insurer. Establishment Democrats see this as a losing political hand in the same way they saw Sen. Sanders as a losing candidate vs Hillary Clinton is the 2016 Democrat primary

Back on the Republican side. We have a further split. The Republican caucus is divided into the mainstream Republicans and more conservative Republicans. These conservatives are themselves split into one group calling itself The Freedom Caucus and the other, known as the Republican Study Committee. 

Back to Mr. Lincoln. The parliamentary maneuvering to either pass the bill into law or block its passage continues as the bill’s sponsors look for ways to entice recalcitrant Members to support the measure. This effort involves amending the legislation to make it more pleasing to the various factions. 

The issue is whether the Republican House leadership can please enough Members to cobble together the required votes to pass a bill that has been promised for 7 years. 

Earlier this week, the bill was amended to allow states the flexibility to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients and to block-grant Federal Medicaid funding to the states, which would then decide the best way to spend the grant in each state. 

This more Federalist approach to Medicaid seem to have gotten Republican Study Group members seats on the American Healthcare Act train, but do not appear at this late hour to have been enough to get the Freedom Caucus on board. And liberals and some moderates do not favor allowing states set the administrative rules of the program.

We may be at a point where House leadership in order to please enough Members to pass the bill is facing the prospect of having to fool enough Members in order to get their votes. Also, changing the bill to please one faction may make it less likely that an opposing faction will sign on. 

Pleasing, fooling, it’s all the same in politics. Trying to fool or please all the people all the time is a zero sum game. Every vote you win may cost you a vote you lose from another faction.
6:47 AM

International Day of Happiness

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Today, March 20, by fiat of the United Nations, is the International Day of Happiness. Let’s share some happiness. First, some kudos to the girls and boys at Turtle Bay for finally taking a break from Israel-bashing and getting something valuable done. 

Next, let’s work on de-nuking North Korea. Then, how about solving that whole ISIS puzzle. Not to minimize happiness but when the UN sets itself up as the arbiter of the world, it has a lot to arbitrate.

Having one less nuclear power in the world, especially that one, and getting rid of a rabble of homicidal maniacs would make a lot of people happy.

International Happiness Day started with that UN declaration in 2012. But in 2014 the happiness movement was kicked to a new level when Zoe Morris and some colleagues erected an orange happiness wall at the University of Pittsburgh. They invited passers-by to write down how they shared happiness. That was the first year of happiness walls constructed as part of the Live Happy initiative. 

Eventually there would be 30 happiness walls including Pittsburgh. 

But back to Zoe. A year after launching the groundbreaking Pittsburgh happiness wall, her mom passed away March 19, 2015. Before she passed, she told Zoe that she wanted her to be at the happiness wall.  

Two days after her mom’s passing, on March 21, 2015, Zoe was back at a happiness wall. Zoe said that her mother lived her life in service to others and to make them happy. And that she was still caring for Zoe the day the she passed. 

Deborah K. Heisz, co-founder, CEO and editorial director of Live Happy says Zoe’s spirt is what International Day of Happiness is all about.

The International Day of Happiness, she says encourages us to set aside the turmoil of daily life and come together at a common touchstone in the form of a big orange wall and share happiness.

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5:20 PM

March Madness and the Best College Basketball Fans

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March Madness and the Best College Basketball Fans

Our good friends at WalletHub who often supply The Lobster with topical subject matter, bring you the following tidbits related to college basketball’s  annual tournament of champions which rolls off this week.

It’s doubtful any of this will help you build a winning bracket although it will amuse you while you are building that bracket.

According to WalletHub the best city in the U.S. for college basketball fans is Chapel Hill, NC home to the University of North Carolina, a school that has seen its share of college hoops success.

UNC is followed in the WalletHub ranking by Los Angeles, home to the University of California at Los Angeles, which in the 1960s began captivated basketball fans with a series of teams coached by the legendary John Wooden and featuring great  players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Thanks to Coach Wooden and his seemingly never-ending parade of stars at UCLA, Los Angeles owns the most NCAA national championship banners. This may help explain its second-ranked fan base. It’s easy to be a fan when you sit in Pauley Pavilion and stare up at 11 banners hanging from the rafters.

Number 3 on the WalletHub Hit Parade is Durham, NC, home of Duke University usually a perennial contender to take home the championship hardware but not this year.

Fourth on the rundown is Bloomington, Indiana in the basketball-crazy state of Indiana and home to Indiana University of the Big Ten Conference.

Number Five on the list of the best college basketball fans is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, take that Philly sports fans haters.  This city sports a multitude of successful big time basketball programs, lead by the Owls of Temple University, and followed by St. Joseph University, La Salle University, and Penn of the Ivy League.

And throw in nearby Villanova University, which by virtue of its gaudy record this season will lead the field of 64 on to the hardwood this tournament. Nova also has the highest winning percentage among men’s college basketball teams. Their 88 percent is 6 times that of the school with the lowest win rate, the Tigers of Grambling State, which has won about 16 percent of its contests.

All totaled, Philadelphia has 116 regular season titles, the most among major college teams.

Following Philadelphia is East Lansing, Michigan, home of the Big Ten’s Michigan State University.

Clocking in at seventh place is Lawrence, Kansas, home to perennial roundball power, the University of Kansas.

Following Lawrence is Lexington, Kentucky, home of the University of Kentucky, another annual championship contender. Lexington’s fan base may have ranked a lowly 8 in the best fans poll, but its fans did lead in one key area, the price they are willing pay for season tickets. Season passes to see the Kentucky Wildcats play start at 950 dollars, which is 21 times the starting price for a season of hoops in Hamilton, NY,  home of the Colgate University Raiders.

Kentucky. Colgate. Sounds like a 1-16 bracket match-up to The Lobster

Next up is beautiful Storrs, Connecticut, home of the perennial woman’s basketball champion team.

Number 10 on the WalletHub list of the best college basketball fans is Cullowhee NC, home of the Catamounts of the Southern League.

The survey crunched the numbers on 291 cities. The 7 criteria by which the cities were evaluated included the number of teams per city, the winning percentage of each team to arena capacity, and social-media engagement.

To enjoy the full report and check out where your city ranks, visit