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6:58 AM

A smart device app solution for merchant processing of government nutrition payments, such as WIC

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A smart device app solution for merchant processing of government nutrition payments, such as WIC. 

Nova Dia Group, a Texas-based developer of mobile-payment solutions, has announced that its Mobile Market family of products has been certified for electronic WIC transactions by Conduent, a leading EBT transaction processor.

The upshot of this certification is that retailers that use merchant processor WorldPay for their point-of-sale transaction processing and use the Mobile Market products wIll now be able to support electronic WIC as a tender type.

Mobile Market+ Select is billed as an mPOS solution for merchants who want a smart device solution as well as the ability to accept both types of EBT tender: SNAP and WIC.

According to NDG, its Mobile Market products can now provide merchants with a single POS solution to process the following types of tender: WIC, SNAP, credit, loyalty. The company claims the Mobile Market solution is the only smart device app that can process WIC, SNAP, and credit across all state lines for multi-state merchants.
11:24 AM

A Great Program Badly in Need of Disruption

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Disruption is a good thing in technology because it is how we grow and evolve. The last significant disruption in Federal food distribution was the Agriculture Department’s final rule mandating that all states adopt EBT for the distribution of Woman, Infants and Children benefits. This occurred in 2016. It is also worth noting that the Rule incorporates provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. HHFKA passed Congress 6 years prior to the Final Rule.

Prior to WIC EBT, the last significant disruption in EBT was the Congressional mandate that all state EBT systems be interoperable with each other. Congress issued this directive in 1999, 16 years after the dawn of EBT technology

The use of electronic benefits transfer for the distribution of government benefits dates back to 1983. EBT has been one of the most successful public-private partnerships in American government history. But it is clearly an industry that at times rests on its laurels.

In February of 2018 the Agriculture Department which manages the SNAP program, formerly known as the Food Stamp program, announced plans to convert a portion of each eligible household’s monthly benefit to what it dubbed a America’s Harvest Box pending the approval of Congress. The box would contain shelf-stable food staples.

The Harvest Box idea was previewed in President Trump’s 2019 budget message to Congress in February 2018. It is part of the Administration’s plan to cut federal SNAP spending by 200 billion dollars or 30 percent. 

Opposition to the plan was emotional, overwrought and largely along party lines.

In a statement Eloise Anderson, the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department on children and Families and Chair of the Secretaries’ Innovation Group comprised of 22 state human services and workforce leaders from 22 states covering 52 percent of the country, wrote that she likes the idea that the Harvest Box proposal helps assure that recipient families…have a ready supply of healthy and nutritious food.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, according to a published report, admitted that the Harvest Box idea surprised members of Congress but also said that Department staff had consulted with experts while formulating the concept. He also reportedly called the plan a work in progress as the Department starts taking public comment.

According to one report, Secretary Perdue is looking for Congressional permission to develop a Harvest Box pilot program.

2:10 PM

3 Simple Steps for Crafting a Winning Pitch for Government Business

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3 Simple Steps for Crafting a Winning Pitch  for Government Business

Know Your Customer. In government sales, there are several parties you will have to deal with. They are the buyers who work for the procurement agency,  the program officials who will actually manage how your produce or service will be used, the government employees who will actually put your produce or service into play. In the government sales cycle, the buyers are the people you will have to negotiate with. They are the gatekeepers. Regardless of the merits of your offering, unless you please the buyer, you won’t get to the program official who will be responsible for the use of your offering. Once you are tendered a contract, the program manager will be responsible for the use of your offering. Screw up at this point and you’re out, Tom. The program officials rely for counsel on the field employees who will be responsible for the deployment of your offering.

Plan in Advance. Understand that a government customer can differ from a commercial customer. A commercial customer is answerable to the company’s shareholders. This is the dynamic that ultimately drives all decisions. A government customer answered ultimately to the taxpayers. So, government customers generally choose the “lowest, best offer” Understanding the differences between the two customers will allow you to battle plan a successful proposal to a government agency. Whatever you do, don’t try to get by on the cheap by recycling an old prop to a commercial customer. We serve both commercial and government customers. We know the differences and why a commercial proposal won’t work with a government prospect.

Tailor your proposal to a government prospect. Your prop should always focus on why your offering is the “lowest, best” offer in the solicitation. Understanding the differences between the commercial and government customers, make the proposal more about the government prospect and less about your company. Avoid chest-thumping praise of your own offering. Be aware of what your prospect’s issues are and in your proposal very concisely focus on how your offering solves those issues. Make the case by citing other government customers that have benefitted by your offering, if you have any.  
2:13 PM

The electronic message that drives EBT transactions is about to change

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EBT electronic transaction messaging to get a rework

The Retail Payments Subcommittee of electronic financial message standards group X9 is soon to begin revising the financial transaction message for EBT.

Standardization of the electronic processing of SNAP (nee Food Stamps) purchase transactions “provides cost efficiency, ease on conversion, data and reporting consistency for the SNAP program.

Parties affected by the change include The Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for managing the SNAP program, state and territorial agencies that manage SNAP on a local level, the handful of companies that process SNAP electronic transactions, third-party processors of SNAP transactions, software developers, point-of-sale terminal manufactures, authorized food retailers that vend the food which SNAP EBT cardholders purchase, as well as software developers who build the retail POS systems.

The subcommittee is seeking subject-matter experts among these stakeholder groups who would be interested in participating in the rewrite of the SNAP EBT message.
2:28 PM

Yet another state goes live with EBT payment technology

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Yet another state goes live with EBT payment technology for the WIC program

In April of 2018 the State of Arkansas began converting its Woman, Infants and Children nutrition program away from paper benefits checks in favor of electronic benefits transfer, or EBT, technology. 

This is a project that Chaddsford Planning work on in the planning phase, assisting the EBT planning contractor, Burger Carroll and Associates. It is gratifying to see the State and its EBT processing contractor, Solutran, get the EBT system off the ground.

EBT is more efficient for the state, beneficiaries, and food retailers  who vend the food to the EBT cardholders. Shopping with a pile of WIC checks is inefficient and stigmatizing for program beneficiaries. Retailers incur the labor and banking costs to handle and account for thousands of WiIC checks each month. States also incur the costs of printing, issuing and accounting for the checks. Under EBT these check processing costs go away for taxpayers.

To support its WIC beneficiaries, Arkansas has chosen online “smart card” EBT technology. When states migrate their WIC benefit distribution from paper checks to EBT they can choose either of two technologies: online EBT (similar to a banking debit card) or offline EBT (the beneficiary cards carry a microcomputer chip which holds the large amount of data required for the WIC program) The microcomputer chip may also be more secure than the magnetic strip on an offline card.

There are advantages and drawbacks to each technology. However, experience has shown that both EBT technologies are far superior to the traditional benefit distribution method of printing, distributing, negotiating, and settling thousands of checks every month.

Congress has mandated that by 2020 all states must replace their WIC check operations with an EBT system. As of April 2018, about half of all states, territories, and tribal authorities, have, like Arkansas,  already complied with the Congressional mandate. Another handful are in the process of implementing EBT. Several others are in the process of rolling out or piloting a WIC EBT system. A few are still planning for EBT.