Republican lawmakers intend to give Iowa’s grocery stores 333-thousand dollars in the coming year to handle the new A-T-M-like cards that have replaced paper food stamps in Iowa. Critics say stores didn’t get extra cash from the state to process the old coupons, so it makes no sense to spend seven-cents per electronic transaction, which is easier for the stores to handle. But Republican Representative Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant says grocers made their case. Heaton says it costs the stores money to make the electronic connection — just like with a debit or credit card — that tells them how much food stamp money a customer can spend in their store. Heaton says grocery store owners complained food stamp recipients buy “low margin items” — staples like flour that aren’t marked-up a lot, which means grocery stores don’t make a lot of profit on those items. Heaton says grocers wanted the state to pay part of the cost of food stamp transactions, and that’s what republicans intend to do. Most states do not pay grocers a fee to handle food stamps. Among the few that do, none pay as much as the seven cents per transaction Iowa lawmakers like Heaton intend to extend Iowa grocers. Heaton says one reason he thinks grocers should get the fee is that many rural grocery stores had to install equipment to handle electronic funds transfers. Heaton says if a store wants to take “food stamps” they’re going to have to install a machine since the state doesn’t hand out coupons anymore. “We’re all plastic,” Heaton says.
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