These questions and answers serve as formal guidance for use by FNS Regional Offices, State agencies, and affected stakeholders as they implement these provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014.
Additional questions and answers pertaining to the retailer provisions are forthcoming. Thank you for your patience. If further questions arise related to the implementation of these provisions, please contact Vicky Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A. Section 4001 – Bottle Deposits
Al: How should a retailer address a situation where a deposit originator charges a ten cent deposit on a refillable container, but the State’s law only establishes a deposit of five cents?
Answer: SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay for any deposit fee unless the State requires customers to pay such a fee in order to purchase food in a returnable bottle, can or other container. Also, the container must be of a type and size covered by the State law and the amount debited from the SNAP account for that container may not exceed the value established in the law. In the above example, SNAP funds may only be used to pay the five cents of the bottle deposit covered by the State law. If the deposit originator is adding five cents beyond the State fee, the SNAP customer must pay that additional amount in cash. If the ten cent fee is for a bottle type or size not covered by the State law, the SNAP customer must pay the entire ten cents in cash.
A2: Our bottle deposit law only covers containers holding less than one gallon or 3.78 liters. Many retailers sell five gallon jugs of water on which the bottler imposes a $5.00 deposit. May recipients use SNAP benefits to pay for the $5.00 deposit?
Answer: No. SNAP funds cannot be used to pay for any deposit fees that are not covered by or in excess of the State’s bottle deposit law. The SNAP customer must pay cash for these deposits.
Therefore, in the example given in the question, if the State’s bottle deposit law only covers containers holding less than one gallon and the price of a 5-gallon container of water is $6, but the bottler imposes a $5 deposit, the customer can pay $1 with SNAP benefits. The remaining $5.00 must be paid for in cash at the time of initial purchase. Because the recipient has paid the non-State deposit fee in cash, they are entitled to receive the full return deposit in cash as well.
A3: May SNAP customers get cash back for a bottle/can deposit? Answer: If the bottle return center reviews the tender type as part of normal practice and is therefore able to determine that the State-required deposit fee was paid for with SNAP benefits, then the fee should be credited to the SNAP customer’s SNAP EBT account. If it is not standard practice to determine the original tender type, and cash is returned to all customers, then cash may also be returned to SNAP customers.
SNAP customers should be aware that based on the definition oftrafficking found in 7 CFR 271.2, SNAP customers who 1) purchase a product with SNAP benefits with the intent of obtaining cash by discarding the product and returning the container for the amount, 2) intentionally discard the product, and 3) intentionally return the container for the deposit amount are committing an intentional Program violation and may be disqualified from participation in SNAP by the State agency.
A4: When are retailers required to change their scanner systems for the new SNAP bottle deposit requirements? Will this be retroactive to the date of implementation?
Answer: Integrated scanning systems and databases should be updated as soon as possible to reflect the requirements identified above. Retailers who can demonstrate that they are making a good faith effort in updating their systems as soon as possible will not be held accountable for making retroactive changes.
A5: Will there be some additional publicity or guidance on implementation of Section 4001 to educate retailers and consumers?
Answer: On April 15, 2014 FNS began distributing a notice describing the relevant retailer provisions in the Agricultural Act of2014 to all SNAP authorized retailers. This notice can be found on line at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/2014-farm-billimplementation and includes the bottle deposit provision. States may publicize further to educate SNAP consumers but this is not mandatory.
A6: Our State does not have a State deposit fee on any goods but we do have farms that sell, in large and small grocers, bottled milk with a $5 deposit fee included in the price of the milk. Does this provision make this milk an ineligible food item now or is the store just not permitted to give the cash return of $5 to the SNAP client?
Answer: The milk continues to be an eligible item, but the $5 added by the farm/manufacturer for a deposit fee cannot be paid for with SNAP benefits. As it must be paid for with cash, it can therefore be returned for cash.
C. Section 4002 – Retailers – EBT Equipment Costs
Cl: Could EBT processors continue to provide EBT equipment, supplies and related services for retailers that want EBT -only services by charging the retailers directly?
Answer: Yes. The Agricultural Act of 2014 requires retailers “to pay 100 percent of the costs of acquiring, and arrange for the implementation of, electronic benefit transfer point-of-sale equipment and supplies, including related services.” EBT processors have the option to continue providing non-exempt retailers with EBT equipment, supplies and related services, and charging those retailers directly for the EBT equipment, supplies and related services. Alternatively, EBT Processors may redirect non-exempt retailers to alternate sources of EBT equipment, supplies and related services.
C2: Could EBT processors offer other services to these retailers if they wish, like the ability to accept commercial credit/debit cards?
Answer: Yes, EBT processors may offer other services. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended by the Agricultural Act of 2014 and current SNAP regulations do not prohibit EBT processors from offering SNAP-authorized retailers services such as the ability to accept commercial credit/debit cards.
C3: How will we know which retailers are exempt? Will FNS provide the Retailer Electronic Data Exchange (REDE) store type codes that qualify for exemption or will some other method be defined by FNS?
Answer: The REDE file store type codes will be used to identify exempt retailers. FNS has developed a list of the store type codes that qualify for exemption and has provided it to both the States and the EBT processors.
C4: Are any changes to the REDE file anticipated? If yes, what is the anticipated timing for those changes? Would it be possible for States to be kept in the loop when an exempted retailer is authorized?
Answer: FNS will continue to provide State EBT processors with the existing State REDE files, which include the store type codes for every newly authorized retailer. No changes will be made to the file as a result of new provisions in the Agricultural Act of 2014. EBT processors should identify exempt retailers by comparing the store type in the REDE file to the list of the store type codes that qualify for the exemption identified above in the response to C3.
CS: Are retailers currently using EBT -only equipment immediately responsible for the care and keeping of their terminals? In other words, if a current EBT -only retailer has his government sponsored POS device fail tomorrow, must that retailer fix or replace it at his/her own cost to remain in the program?
Answer: No. FNS recognizes that States will need to make suitable arrangements with contractors and retailers to no longer subsidize the cost of equipment for non-exempt, EBT-only retailers. FNS also recognizes that non-exempt retailers who currently receive EBT-only State equipment would need to make other arrangements if they wish to continue participating in SNAP. Therefore, as noted in the March 21, 2014 Implementation Memorandum for SNAP Provisions of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (“March 21, 2014 Implementing Memo”), there will be a six-month implementation period (i.e., until September 21, 2014), for States to implement this provision for nonexempt, currently authorized SNAP retailers.
This means that existing agreements in place between the EBT processors and retailers should be honored in full either until these existing agreements are renegotiated or terminated or upon the date of the State’s implementation of this provision for nonexempt retailers, whichever event occurs first.
C6: Must States allow the full 6 months to pass before requiring retailers pay for their own terminals or may they implement the provisions earlier?
Answer: State changes are expected to be contractual and procedural in nature. Contract negotiations should begin as soon as practical, and may allow for implementation sooner than 6 months if the State so chooses. However, existing retailers should be given adequate time to implement alternatives.
C7: Will FNS provide those States in the process of converting to a new EBT vendor more flexibility with the 6-month implementation timeframe?
Answer: See response to C6. States may implement the provision in less than six months if they so choose. However, retailers should be provided adequate time to implement alternatives. States are not permitted to extend subsidized support for EBT equipment, supplies, and related services to non-exempt retailers beyond September 21, 2014.
C8: How is FNS handling notification of changes in the imposition of EBT costs to retailers and will States be in the loop of such notification?
Answer: FNS has taken primary responsibility for notifying retailers of the Agricultural Act of 2014 provisions affecting retailers, including changes in the imposition of EBT costs. This notice can be found on line at http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/2014-farm-billimplementation and includes the imposition of EBT costs provision. States and/or EBT processors will be responsible for notifying current EBT-only retailers of any changes in services as a result of the provisions.