It seems that on September 21, 2014, SNAP/EBT will no longer be free. I’m not sure it was ever entirely free, but there wasn’t a monthly fee. One company seems to be offering the equipment at $75/mo with no other fees and no long lease agreements on the equipment.
Why the change? I guess it is because in order to get the SNAP program renewed in the latest farm bill, the law makers negotiation went something like: “The Fed gives millions of tax payer dollars to states to support this program already, so why should we also pay for the infrastructure?”
On one hand, my gut says this is terrible. Our system creates this need, so why shouldn’t our system facilitate the whole circle? On the other hand, for $75/month you are able to bring customers in the store who really need your healthy products and otherwise couldn’t afford it. Furthermore, you make money by collecting on a purchase backed by government funds. Plus, it’s a business expense that could be seen as a type of marketing.
Whether you are a physical store, an on-line store, a buying club, a CSA… this may cut in to your cash flow. That said, if offering SNAP/EBT fits in your mission, it won’t be too bad. My fear is that those who were considering starting a free program would not pay anything if they don’t feel they can afford to spend another dime. I’ll keep the hope that the mission and potential income is motivation enough to do it.