Sunderland, Mass. – Today, Natalie Blais, Democratic candidate for State Representative, First Franklin District, called on Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to enter into a multi-year contract to process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) benefits at farmers' markets.
In a letter to Governor Baker, Blais said, “I am writing to express my grave concerns about the current crisis Massachusetts and other states face in processing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and HIP benefits at farmers' markets.”
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported that “The Novo Dia Group, an Austin-based company that processes some 40 percent of SNAP transactions at farmers markets nationwide, said it will end its service by July 31, leaving about 1,700 of the more than 7,000 markets that offer SNAP.” The National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs has since announced that it will fund the system until the end of August.
“The closure of a company which processes these transactions for 1,700 farm retailers across the country, and is the only wireless option for processing HIP, shows the vulnerability we face if we rely on solely on federal programs rather than developing our own contracts with providers,” said Blais.
Last year, Massachusetts processed 184,000 SNAP purchases totaling $2.66 million at 243 sites – more than any other state.
“Massachusetts can continue to serve our vulnerable families and our farmers by entering into a multi-year contract with a provider that will commit to providing uninterrupted processing services for EBT transactions through smart phones and tablets,” said Blais.
The FY19 budget passed by the Legislature includes $4 million for HIP.
Blais argued that the “Contract must include the terminals necessary to process SNAP payments and HIP benefits, and the transaction fees should be covered free of change or be substantially subsidized by the state. This system must be in place before the 2019 growing season so that consumers and farmers who have come to rely on the program remain committed to participating in it.”