Thursday, February 7, 2019

Adding value for SNAP shoppers

Adding value for SNAP shoppers
Search the Internet for apps related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP and formerly known as food stamps) and you are likely to find any number of them where as recently as five years ago you might have found none.

Some of these apps may give the impression that they are part of the SNAP program. Others are clear that their purpose is to add value to the shopping experience without giving any such impressions. One such app is Snap2Save, a mobile loyalty app vended by Colorado-based digital customer engagement developer Green Piranhas.

Green Piranhas has worked with food retailer Save-A-Lot to make Snap2Save usable at a number of Save-A-Lot store brands.

Since the inception of EBT technology in the 1980s, the typical EBT technology matrix has consisted of the federal Agriculture Department paying for the SNAP food purchased by eligible program beneficiaries and also providing technical guidance to the states as well as authorizing food retailers to participate in SNAP,  state agencies that administer the program on a state level and a technology company known as an EBT processor that accepts eligibility data from the state agency and manages the flow of EBT transactions that initiate at food retail companies that are authorized to sell SNAP food to SNAP customers. The authorized food retailers are the last part of the traditional EBT matrix.

Value-added apps outside of this matrix like Snap2Save add a new dimension to the delivery of SNAP benefits. These apps could be provided by the EBT processors or as in the case of Snap2Save by a third party operating outside of the traditional EBT matrix.

 Snap2Save enables users to earn and redeem loyalty points at participating Save-A-Lot food stores, through S2S’s Healthy Food Rewards program which encourages healthier food choices at the grocery store.

However, Snap2Save also enables users to do so much more, including checking their EBT balances, obtaining health and wellness incentives for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, being able to view healthy recipe videos.

And Snap2Save allows users the chance to receive special offers and win prizes.

According to developer Green Piranhas, Snap2Save is the next generation of such apps because it combines digital loyalty with a health and wellness focus that allows consumers to both save money and live better.

Sam Jonas, CEO of Green Piranhas, says that Snap2Save’s Healthy Food Rewards, with its combination of financial incentives and emphasis on health and wellness, is the type of program that appeals to shoppers on a budget.

Snap2Save is available for both iOS and Android devices.

In the interest of full disclosure, Snap2Save is a client of Chaddsford Planning Associates.

Monday, January 28, 2019

EBT community came together to meet early SNAP issuance demand, necessitate by the government shutdown

 EBT community came together to meet early SNAP issuance demand, necessitate by the government shutdown 

The EBT community is a public-private partnership of government agencies and companies that design, develop, implement and operate the complex systems that deliver food nutritional assistance to eligible persons each month. This includes, among other things, identifying eligible recipients, issuing debit cards used to obtain food at authorized food retailers, keeping the system free of waste, fraud and abuse, containing costs, and issuing the eligible SNAP food, promulgating and observing federal regulations designed to allow the system to operate seamlessly.

The EBT community is comprised of the Food and Nutrition Service of the Agriculture Department, state agencies that administer the SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program) on a state level, the EBT transaction processors, vendors that provide some of the hardware and software required to build the state EBT systems, consultants who advise the state agencies and the companies and advocacy groups representing the interests of SNAP beneficiaries and food retailers authorized to issue SNAP benefits.

The government shutdown made it necessary to issue February SNAP benefits early, in order to reduce the amount of time that eligible families would be without the benefit.

Once the decision was made to allow early issuance, the EBT community quickly jumped into action, working seamlessly to get the food to those who needed it. Disparate groups worked as one and got the food to those who needed it.

The EBT community is represented by the eGovernment Payments Council, a service of the venerable Electronic Funds Transfer Association or EFTA. EFTA advocates for replacing paper processes in payments with electronic processes which are generally more secure and cost-efficient. Chaddsford Planning Associates was a founding member of the eGovernment Payments Council.

Council members who are employed by government agencies did not participate in any policy discussion regarding this issue or in any other discussion involving public policy.

Friday, January 4, 2019

A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory

The Lobster is taking a detour at this holiday season. 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 Christmas season

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. At this Christmas season in 2018 I again take time out to remember Ed’s life and death.

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

EBT Riding The New Commercial Payments Infrastructure

EBT, the use of debit card technology to distribute nutrition benefits, such as those formerly called food stamps, dates to 1985. There were 3 principal reasons behind the launch of EBT or Electronic Benefits Transfer. They were the mitigation of fraud and abuse in the food stamp program as well as  the desire to make the distribution of benefits more efficient and user-friendly and to de-stigmatize the use of paper benefits at the store cash register.

Today, modern technology can take these goals to the next level. Mobile technology including EBT apps and mobile wallets can connect eligible beneficiaries directly with the transaction processors hired by state governments to distribute the benefits. This both reduces the opportunity for fraud and makes the use of the benefits at an authorized food retailer more convenient.

In addition, the cost benefit of EBT was originally premised on the theory that EBT transactions would "ride the existing commercial electronic payments infrastructure" rather than government paying to develop and operate a new payment system.

The day when "the existing commercial payment infrastructure" consisted solely of point-of-sale terminals and debit cards is long past. Existing payment technology now includes the ability of beneficiaries to initiated their benefit transactions on their mobile phones, just as non-benefit food shoppers do.

States can now take advantage of this technology to further secure the transaction and make it more efficient and user-friendly. The key to this is increased mobile technology.

The time is now for state agencies, EBT professionals and lawmakers to stop resting on the success of the first generation of EBT and provide EBT shoppers with the same security and convenience as not-EBT shoppers.

In addition, beneficiaries who lose their EBT cards must return to their local social services offices to have the card replaced, so that they can access their benefits. With an app on their mobile phones they can have immediate access to their benefits.

A mobile wallet can help beneficiaries better learn to how to take responsibility for managing their food spending. Currently much nutrition program fraud occurs when beneficiaries sell their EBT cards to dishonest food retailers or lose their cards. A mobile wallet holding the cardholder's current benefit balance eliminates the need to carry the EBT card on the streets where they can be stolen or misused.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Has the Community Reinvestment Act outlived its usefulness in the 21st century

Has the more-than-40-year-old Community Reinvestment Act outlived its usefulness. Congress authorized the CRA in 1977, at a time when the banking landscape was far different than it is today.

An article in the December 3, 2018 American Banker by Diego Zuluage of the Cato Institute’s Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives examines this question.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has initiated a study of the CRA. One issue that bears review is the degree to which the CRA in the world of 21st century banking can accomplish the goal that Congress set for it in 1977 .

The CRA mandates that banks make credit available in the communities in which they take deposits. The laudable goal of the law is that banks serve historically underserved low and moderate-income communities.

The law fails to guide regulators on exactly how to to encourage such lending. It done not address, for example, sanctions, fines or threats of charter-revocation. It does allow regulators to block bank expansion including mergers, so much a part of the new banking landscape. One of those regulators, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, back when the CRA made its way through Congress, oversaw 14,000 banks, but now supervises about 5,000. This attrition, to a great extent is due to bank mergers. 

For 4 decades the CRA has provided guidance for regulators on assessing how well banks have met their CRA obligations. However, although we live in a metrics-driven world now, 40 years ago Congress failed to provide guidance on how to measure CRA performance.

Another important issue raised by Zuluage is whether the CRA’s 40-year-old goal could have contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. He posits that the crisis illustrate that for many financial vulnerable households the problem was not so much a lack of mortgage credit as it was too much easy credit. 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Medicare for All

The first rule of business that I learned in a thirty year career was that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Democrat party did a masterful job this past mid-term election of reshaping the electoral dialogue around healthcare, a strong issue for them and a weak point for their Republican adversaries. 

On this issue, some key Democrat politicians have been beating the drum for “Medicare for All” attempting to capitalize politically on the fact that in the five years since the party passed the Affordable Care Act, health insurance premiums have doubled for individuals and increased 140 percent for families. At the same time deductibles have also risen.

As care providers continue to escape the Affordable Care  Act (aka Obamacare), 3/4 of insurance plans are now highly restrictive. Many of those providers who have yet to flee Obamacare have consolidated their practices, as conservatives predicted they would, further restricting access to healthcare and raising consumer costs as fewer providers compete for the same customers.

To clean up the mess they have created, some Democrats believe the solution may be to enroll every man, woman and child in America in Medicare. By most estimates the cost of this free healthcare will be north of 30 trillion dollars. The tab in one state alone, California, is estimated at 400 billion dollars.

Beyond the cost issue, Americans will confront the same quality of care issues that have faced citizens of other countries that thought they could nationalize healthcare without any adverse effects including long waits for service.

What remains to be seen is how Americans, not a people known for their patience or willingness to take the long view on policy issues, will react to long lines and waits for service. 

To clean up the mess they have created, some Democrats believe the solution may be to enroll every man, woman and child in America in Medicare. By most estimates the cost of this free healthcare will be north of 30 trillion dollars. The tab in one state alone, California is estimated at 400 billion dollars.

For a dispassionate view of what is also called single payer healthcare, I commend to you “The False Promise of ‘Medicare for All’”, an opinion piece by Scott W. Atlas, that ran in the November 13 issue of the Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


At last month’s  EBT-The Next Generation conference, sponsored by the Electronic Government Payments Council, I was honored along with my colleague, John Pfeuffer of Conduent State and Local Solutions to present the Council’s 2018 Leadership Award to Art Burger, the President and CEO of Burger Carroll and Associates. ( What follows is a summary of our comments while making the award to Art.

BCA is a national public sector information technology consultancy based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Some 100 Federal, State, Territorial and Tribal government agencies have consulted with BCA.

BCA is a charter member of the Council. Art has served as the Council’s chairman as well as chairing a number of its work groups and committees.

Perhaps more than any other EBT professional, Art has been responsible for the successful adoption of EBT technology by state- managed Woman, Infants and Children nutrition programs.

In addition to advising WIC state agencies on EBT technology he was instrumental in explaining to the EBT industry what a WIC EBT transaction would look like.

He also brought WIC-facing organizations into the Council to help speed the migration of EBT technology to the WIC program, one of the most efficient federal programs, in terms of outcomes.

In addition to helping birth the technology of WIC EBT, Art is a master at understanding the public policy and funding issues of WIC and EBT.

Perhaps his crowning achievement came when he met with a team of Congressional aides and explained the many benefits of WIC EBT. More than anyone else Art Burger was responsible for Congress agreeing to fund the conversion of state WIC programs to EBT.  This culminated in a Congress mandating that all state must adopt EBT technology for their WIC programs by 2020.

An accomplished and trained debater, he demonstrated for Congress the absurdity of the paper-based system that WIC programs used prior to EBT by showing the congressional representatives a fistful of more that 30 paper vouchers that a typical WIC shopper would have to negotiate each time she shopped with WIC benefits.

This time-consuming process in the grocery store or supermarket slowed throughput at the cash register lines and contributed to higher food costs.

Today, because of Art’s effort, WIC EBT enjoys widespread support within Congress and the food retailing communities

Friday, November 16, 2018

The War on Poverty

The War on Poverty

An opinion piece in the October 11 Wall Street Journal entitled “Government Can’t Rescue the Poor” authored by Phil Gramm and John F. Early traced the effectiveness of the so-called War on Poverty from its inception in the mid-1960s to the current day.

Messrs Gramm and Early state that in the 20 years prior to 1966, without the massive spending that was soon to follow the poverty rate dropped from more than 32 percent to less than 15.

The authors point out that since 1966, the first year with a significant increase in anti-poverty spending, the rate of poverty has been virtually unchanged, according to the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau classifies as poor everyone in families whose incomes are lower than the
the established thresholds for their respective family size and composition.

The Census Bureau has said that in 2016 nearly 13 percent of Americans lived in poverty.

Gramm and Early also note that it is not possible to reconcile this rate, which has remained virtually unchanged over the last 50 years, with the fact that government-transfer payments to lower income families have risen steadily.

According to the authors’ research, from 1965 to 2016 the value of transfer payments in real dollars targeted to low-income families has increased from about 3,000 to 34,000 dollars.

Gramm and Early conclude that even given the magnitude of this increase, the numbers fail to reflect the true growth in transfer payments to low-income families since they exclude Medicare and Social Security which help subsidize low-Income retirees in the bottom quintile of earners.

They postulate that the lowest quintile of earners can receive as much as 10 times the lifetime benefits received by the top fifth of earners.

The stasis in the poverty rate according to the authors is due to the fact that since the start of the War on Poverty the Census Bureau has not counted transfer payments as income. The Bureau measures poverty using what it refers to as “money income”

Money income includes earned income and payments like Social Security and unemployment insurance which a person receives as a result of having been employed. Excluded in the calculation are transfer payments like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, CHIP (The Children’s Health Insurance Program) and nearly 90 other means-tested federal payments and most state means-tested assistance programs.

Gramm and Early opine that these uncounted transfer-payments amount to some 1.5 trillion. And that  if the government were to count them as income, the true poverty rate today would be below 3 percent.

The 3 percent rate would drop even further if the Census Bureau included as income the estimated 500 billion in private charitable donations given to the poorest Americans.

Gramm and Early write that system of transfer-payments has failed to accomplish the goal of the War on Poverty as stated by the president who launched the War, Lyndon Johnson. President Johnson’s goal was to allow America’s poorest citizens “to develop and use their capacities”

It is impossible to say that this goal has been realized when 85 percent of the disposable income of the poorest Americans comes from transfer-payments, according to the authors.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Disrupting EBT

Disrupting EBT

The world of technology is undergoing unprecedented disruption across multiple industries and has not only changed the ways we have traditionally conducted business, but how we look at business as well.  From Airbnb to Amazon, from Uber to Zelle, technology and creative thinking have disrupted the status quo and created market efficiencies.

There is a great meme on the Internet with a picture of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 1998 looking more than slightly nerdy and computer geeky, with his receding hairline and goofy smile, wearing an ill-fitting brown sweater and saying “I am Jeff Bezos and I sell books”; to a pic in 2017 where the same Jeff Bezos, nearly unrecognizable from the 1998 pic, with a shaved head, cool sunglasses, the requisite down vest and golf shirt showing off his biceps, seemingly channeling Vin Diesel and saying  “I am Jeff Bezos and I sell whatever I want.”

 Getting there required not only technology but vision, guts and a willingness to look at something completely differently.  The question The Lobster is exploring here is whether we can we bring these factors together to bring about a needed disruption in EBT?

Do EBT professionals have that Bezos vision, guts and willingness to disrupt established methodologies or would we rather rest on our laurels having invented a new payment system some 35 years ago.

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 focuses on what a good job we have done at the expense of looking objectively at how we can do better.

It seems that an opportunity to look forward is before us.  Mobile payments, smart phones, big data and blockchain all seem to have elements that could be brought to bear in EBT.

 Can we challenge our assumptions?  The prevailing assumption underlying EBT has been that we measure success by the number of people on our EBT systems.  But a growing counter assumption holds that we can quantify success by a decline in those numbers as program benefits relieve economic pressure on beneficiaries and allows them to seek employment and no longer need the benefits that EBT delivers.

Along these lines, the Trump Administration has proposed plans to convert a portion of each eligible household’s monthly benefit to what it dubbed “America’s Harvest Box.” The box would contain shelf-stable food products.

Whether it is good or bad, the Harvest Box concept is a disruption in our thinking about food delivery.  Opposition to the plan was swift and strong and failed to appreciate the new and creative thinking that went into the proposal or the fact that after 35 years technology has passed us by and that EBT is a market more than ready for disruption.  The question becomes what might that disruption look like?  And, do we need to change fundamental assumptions in order to make it happen?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Families who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) use fewer discount coupons and allot more money for spending on food than they would without assistance, according to a soon-to-be-released study

Families who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) use fewer discount coupons and allot more money for spending on food than they would without assistance, according to a forthcoming study by Justine Hastings and Jesse Shapiro, professors of economics.

Why would they go through the time and trouble of couponing and shopping for the best deals when they are playing with "house money".

Hastings and Shapiro found that “every $100 in SNAP benefits leads to between $50 and $60 extra dollars of food spending each month,” Hastings wrote in an email to the Brown University Daily Herald.

According to the study, cash benefits of the same amount don't predict the same effect, Hastings added. Furthermore, the study found that SNAP beneficiaries are slightly less likely to buy less-expensive store brands and redeem discount coupons on SNAP-eligible food products.

 Understanding if “SNAP has larger effects on food spending than cash benefits would is important for understanding its effects on the economy and on the lives of recipients,” she wrote.

According to Shapiro, the authors’ ability to more accurately calculate estimates for the effect of SNAP on food spending sets this research apart from similar studies. Hastings and Shapiro analyzed over six billion data points, including POS scanner data, in their study.

 Scanner data is composed of any data collected when an individual checks out at a grocery store — including payment method and loyalty program history — and can be analyzed to compare the behaviors of SNAP recipients with other shoppers.

A key concept that the study explores is "mental accounting" a term devised by University of Chicago economics professor and Nobel Laureate Richard Thaler to describe a consumer's tendency
to budget specific amounts of money for various categories of spending.

Italicized text indicates our editorial comments.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Mobile Security in EBT

There have been many efforts to add mobile delivery of EBT services to a payment system which up to now has exclusively offered over-the-counter delivery of benefits. As with any payment system, a mobile dimension added a new layer of security concerns.

 The EBT Mobile Security Working Group of the eGovernment Payments Council has produced a white paper entitled Mobile Security in EBT. The paper is a definitive study of the security issues that would be involved if EBT beneficiaries are ever allowed to redeem their benefits via their mobile phones. The Council is a service of the Electronic Funds Transfer Association. The EBT mobile security white paper was edited and prepared for publishing by Chaddsford Planning Associates.

Topics covered in Mobile Security in EBT include the challenges of securing EBT digital identities, the challenges of establishing proof of digital identity in EBT, adopting 2 factor authentication for mobile EBT, regulatory issues surrounding mobile digital EBT, controlling data access, security while making the transition to mobile ID, the value proposition for secure mobile digital EBT. Mobile Security in EBT also includes 3 use cases for secure mobile program delivery.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

USDA uses "common-sense flexibility" in authorizing the purchase of hot and prepared foods by SNAP beneficiaries who were victims of Hurricane Florence

The deprivation and pain caused by the recent Hurricane Florence flooding almost exceeds our ability to comprehend.

One group that has comprehended it and is doing something about it is the Food and Nutrition Service of USDA. FNS runs an assortment of food programs that include SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps)

Because of the Hurricane Florence-induced hardships inflicted on North Carolina, including disruption in power supplies which limits the ability to cook during the recovery phase of the hurricane, FNS is allowing SNAP participants to use their electronic benefits to purchase hot and prepared foods.

FNS’s waiver of its regulation against using SNAP benefits to buy previously heated and prepared food will be in effect in North Carolina (where the hurricane first came ashore) until October 31 of this year.

In announcing the waiver, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue took into account that SNAP beneficiaries who have been evacuated to shelters lack the ability to store fresh food and probably lack access to cooking facilities.

In a news release, Secretary Purdue called the policy “common-sense flexibility”

Under ordinary circumstance,beneficiaries are forbidden from using their electronic benefits for pre-heated and food prepared for immediate consumption.

USDA notes that food stores authorized to accept SNAP benefits may requirer a day or two to prepare for accepting the electronic SNAP benefit in exchange for hot and prepared food.

On September 16, USDA also approved another waiver that extends the time period that North Carolina SNAP beneficiaries have to submit reimbursement claims for food spoiled or otherwise lost due to Hurricane Florence. That deadline to report food loss is now October 15.

USDA may consider additional policy waivers or procedural changes to ease the burden of North Carolina SNAP participants adversely affected by Hurricane Florence. For up-to-date information on FNS assistance, visit