The American Transaction Processor Coalition (ATPC) is helping members engage federal and state regulators and elected officials during the COVID-19 pandemic to aid customers, consumers and protect the country’s payments processing critical infrastructure. Conversations are taking place about a range of topics, including leveraging prepaid products for government relief disbursements, varied regulatory compliance, and safe technology practices. The following story recaps a number of steps the ATPC is taking with and on behalf of members.
ATPC Launches COVID-19 Task Force
The payments industry, including processors, network brands, banks, and others, is playing a critical role in the American economy during this time of unprecedented crisis by ensuring that commerce continues here and around the world. These companies, ATPC members, are facing regulatory and legislative uncertainty as our government rapidly works to address the health and economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak.
That’s why the ATPC launched a COVID-19 Task Force with an introductory, “organizing” Zoom session. This new group – comprised of ATPC member company Chief Risk Officers, COVID-19 team leads, and Business Continuity Managers – is taking a deeper dive into industry concerns. The Task Force is led by Carolyn Homberger, EVP & Chief Risk Officer for ACI Worldwide (an ATPC Board Member).
The ATPC established a smaller steering committee to help guide content and goals, before reporting back to the full task force any findings or new issues. There are also regular, near real-time email reports on governmental and regulatory considerations from this group. The Task Force will serve as a unique platform for individual companies in the ecosystem to compare and contrast challenges and solutions.
Prepaid Solutions for Financial Stimulus
The ATPC coordinated with members, led by InComm and Firstview Financial, to meet with Georgia’s Congressional Delegation in early April about leveraging prepaid solutions for the federal government individual relief funds, part of the CARES Act. This legislation, signed into law on March 27th, is the third piece of legislation providing stimulus to individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. A provision of the bill promises to provide eligible Americans with up to $1,200 to help manage during the ongoing crisis.
Distribution of these funds is being defined and released, but the IRS currently identified paper checks and (limited) direct deposits as the primary vehicles. Eligible recipients who received their 2018 or 2019 federal tax funds electronically are receiving CARES Act distributions the same way, to the same accounts. All other recipients without a bank account on file can visit an IRS website and input their information to determine fund and direct deposit eligibility. Everyone else will receive a paper check.
The ATPC and its members have another solution: prepaid cards. Millions of taxpayers received their 2019 federal tax refunds via direct deposit to General Purpose Reloadable (GPR) cards. The ATPC and its members believe the IRS should leverage this option for individual’s relief fund direct deposits. Individuals without GPR information on file, but access to a card, should also be able to input their information on the IRS website to qualify for direct deposit. Twenty five percent of the U.S. population are unbanked or underbanked, and could benefit most from rapid distribution of these critical funds through GPR cards. Current estimates predict that some relief checks could take up to 20 weeks (August) to arrive, while direct deposit can be nearly instantaneous and help those that are struggling in a quicker manner.
American Transaction Processors Coalition leaders and member representatives held virtual meetings with staff from nine Georgia Congressional offices to promote this solution and request that they urge the U.S. Department of Treasury to enable prepaid cards as an alternative to paper checks. The meetings included the following offices:
- Sanford Bishop (D-GA, 2)
- Buddy Carter (R-GA, 1)
- Drew Ferguson (R-GA, 3)
- Rob Woodall (R-GA, 7)
- Barry Loudermilk (R-GA, 11)
- David Perdue (R-GA)
- John Lewis (D-GA, 5)
- Lucy McBath (D-GA, 6)
- David Scott (D-GA, 13)
These Congressional offices regularly engage with ATPC members to hear our concerns, and some have become industry champions. These meetings deepened the relationships and led to unanimous bipartisan support for the GPR solution. Each office committed to contact the Treasury Department. Congressman Bishop’s and Congresswoman Mcbath’s offices wrote and sent out letters within days of the meetings. They also shared the letters with the Democrat House leadership including House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and it was warmly received. Congressman Loudermilk, in partnership with Representative Bill Foster (D-IL, 14), also cosigned a bi-partisan letter promoting this solution. The remainder of Georgia’s participating delegation reached out via phone call.
The ATPC also applauds the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) support of a prepaid option for the CARES Act economic impact funds. The CFPB released this video on April 21st outlining what qualifying non-tax filers need to know about claiming their economic impact payments. Of particular note, the video highlights prepaid cards as a key option for recipients to receive their funds. This is a crucial step in promoting a necessary solution for unbanked and underbanked Americans – approximately twenty five percent of the U.S. population – receive their much-needed support quicker and cheaper. The ATPC Board of Directors and COVID-19 Task Force steering committee participated in a call with CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger on April 15th to discuss this and many other issues (see below). The CFPB had just released this guidance on the use of prepaid cards and Director Kraninger positively acknowledged the ATPC’s efforts to promote this solution as well.
Other groups are participating in the prepaid fight, including the Innovative Payments Association (IPA) (a frequent ATPC partner) who have engaged the CFPB and Internal Revenue Service. The IPA played a crucial role in garnering CFPB support for this solution. The ATPC appreciates all the hard work the IPA has done for this effort as a leader on this issue and continues to collaborate with the organization during this critical time for our country. The ATPC led the charge on Capitol Hill securing support from Congressional leaders serving on the House Financial Services Committee, the House Appropriations Committee (Financial Services Subcommittee), and key Members of the Georgia Congressional delegation.
CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger To Participate on ATPC COVID-19 Call
The ATPC invested significant time and resources the past six years building Congressional member and staff relationships that ensure the payments processing industry has an open door to discuss critical issues. Those efforts resulted in an industry call request from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger. The director sought to get a pulse from the ATPC constituency to determine how they can help minimize the challenges being faced by the payments and fintech industry at large. The director’s participation in the ATPC’s April 15th COVID-19 Task Force meeting presented an opportunity to share the industry perspective and discuss potential upcoming CFPB initiatives stemming from the crisis.
The call included the ATPC Board of Directors and members of the COVID-19 Task Force steering committee.
ATPC Provides “PIN Guidance” to State of Georgia
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued guidance in early April at the request of the ATPC, for retailers and consumers regarding the use of PIN pads and other best practices at points of purchase as Georgia fights the spread of COVID-19.
In response to the State of Georgia’s “Shelter-In-Place” order the ATPC, with the support of the Georgia Retail Association and the Georgia Food Industry Association, recommended the governor put out this guidance based upon discussions with ATPC leadership around concerns that the initial Executive Order was unclear and could be misconstrued to include an outright ban on PIN Pads, which it does not. While the released guidelines did indeed produce an added level of clarification, especially around the permitted use of pins with those consumers utilizing EBT cards, the overall guidance did not reflect all aspects of our counsel. However, the ATPC was the only trade association that was able to move the needle on this concern and produce this important guidance. Since the Executive Order was enacted the Governor has only sent out three press releases one of which was guidance on PIN pad usage. The ATPC will continue to monitor this issue and remain actively engaged as further clarification becomes required.