Tech Firms Lend a Hand

VeriFone, Cardtronics, Generac help with hardware, systems

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Secure electronic payment technologies company VeriFone Holdings Inc., San Jose, Calif., has donated 500 countertop and wireless payment systems to assist merchants impacted by Katrina. It is donating the systems through national credit card processor NOVA Information Systems (NOVA) to facilitate a new federal relief initiative that uses direct deposit and government-issued debit cards to distribute payments of $2,000 to impacted families.

We applaud the U.S. government decision to utilize electronic payment systems as the speediest [image-nocss] method of providing assistance to victims, said VeriFone Chairman and CEO Douglas G. Bergeron. In an effort to facilitate use of the payment cards, VeriFone wants to equip merchants who are currently unable to process electronic transactions. Through NOVA, we will make available the best systems suited to individual merchant needs, including fully mobile, battery operated payment devices that utilize the cellular wireless networks.

NOVA had thousands of merchants impacted by Hurricane Katrina,

said Stuart C. Harvey, president, NOVA Information Systems. We are doing everything we can to help our merchants and bank partners get up and running again. We appreciate VeriFone's generous support of this effort.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Wednesday it would provide $2,000 in assistance to impacted families and distribute via electronic transfer individuals bank accounts, special FEMA debit cards, or by check that can be delivered directly to individuals through the U.S. Postal Service. The new debit card option will benefit thousands of evacuees who may not have access to direct deposit banking, or are unable to receive checks.

Separately, Houston-based ATM owner/operator Cardtronics is installing ATMs on the Houston Astrodome campus to provide surcharge-free access to cash for victims of Katrina. Along with a major financial institution and Ventus Networks, Cardtronics is ensuring that evacuees will be able to conveniently obtain their funds during this time of immediacy.

"We would like to further the amazing humanitarian spirit that has been shown by the city of Houston and the rest of the country," said Cardtronics' President and CEO Jack Antonini. "With our partnerships across the country and here locally, Cardtronics is in a unique position to provide immediate access to cash and some measure of comfort to our neighbors."

Ventus Networks, a full service-global telecommunications company, will provide the wireless communications and equipment for the ATMs free of charge. "We want to assist those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We felt this opportunity to come together with Cardtronics to give our support to the hurricane victims is the right thing to do," said Keith Charette, Ventus Networks president and CEO.

In addition to the rapid deployment of ATMs at the Astrodome, Cardtronics is working with banks and retail merchants across the affected area to get ATMs back online. Cardtronics is providing access to emergency funds throughout the impacted areas of the Gulf Coast region. Plans for additional ATM access at other evacuation centers have yet to be finalized.

And portable generator manufacturer Generac Power Systems Inc., Waukesha, Wis., prepared for the storm by stocking up on spare parts, said Mike Carr, manager of marketing and communications. He says that in times of disaster, the generators in the field run constantly and some may need those parts.

Carr said the company rerouted pre-ordered portable generators to the area affected by Katrina. If [a customer] is in Montana and has a couple on order, we'd ask if we could ship it to the disaster area, Carr told CSP Daily News. And for the most, part people have been very good about it.

The company also sent about half a dozen technicians to the affected area to help set up the equipment. Because so much infrastructure is gone, including hotels, Carr said thetechnicians have had to commute as many as 185 miles daily. Even prior to the storm, the company had been ramping up due to increased demand. Carr said the company hired 1,000 new employees this year and has doubled its capacity at one of its factories.