Free point of sale devices for accepting SNAP benefit payments delayed

Stay tuned for information from the Michigan Farmers Market Association.

March 28, 2018 - Author: Kendra Wills, Michigan State University Extension

At the March 6 and 7, 2018 Michigan Farmers Market Association Conference, Amanda Shreve the newly appointed Executive Director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association gave a presentation on the status of funding for free, wireless point of sale devices for farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (a.k.a. Bridge Cards) as a form of payment. Shreve reported that during the month of December 2017, 1.3 million people in Michigan received $162 million in SNAP benefit payments. This population is a key customer base for many farmers market vendors across the state. Michigan is ranked fourth nationally in the dollar value of SNAP benefits spent in 164 farmers markets statewide.

Point of sale devices (they look like credit card machines) are essential for accepting SNAP benefits. In the recent past, Michigan farmers markets were able to secure wireless devices through a grant fund program of the national Farmers Market Coalition.  This grant program was suspended in November 2017 until additional funding becomes available. Markets are able to secure free hardwired devices if they have access to a standard, analog phone line. These hardwired devices are available through the Michigan EBT office within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Last spring the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) was successful at advocating for state funding to support the purchase of wireless point of sale devices to accept SNAP benefits in farmers markets. Thanks to an amendment sponsored by Representative Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) and Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart), the omnibus state budget bill included $250,000 in state funding to be allocated for these wireless devices to be matched by $250,000 from federal sources. The legislature directed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to distribute these devices.

Shreve reported that MIFMA began communicating with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as soon as the governor signed the 2018 State of Michigan budget into law last fall. Despite this timely start, communications were stalled this winter and there is no specific date when these free, wireless point of sale devices might be available to farmers markets. This could be a serious issue for farmers markets this season as MIFMA estimates that about 65 markets have broken, outdated or expensive equipment that may impact their ability to accept SNAP this year.

After the presentation at the Michigan Farmers Market Conference on March 6, farmer’s market managers began contacting their legislators to seek their assistance with spurring implementation of this funding. These efforts were successful in reaching key individuals at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and communications with MIFMA have resumed. Farmer’s market managers needing wireless point of sale devices should contact the Michigan Farmers Markets Association for more information.

Michigan State University Extension partners with the Michigan Farmers Market Association and provides resources and education to SNAP benefit users as well as farmers markets. For more information on our classes, workshops, and written resources, visit www.msue.anr.msu.edu

Tags: business, community, community food systems, food & health, msu extension


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