Have you ever wondered why Food Export-Midwest and Food Export-Northeast recommend that suppliers apply for Branded Program funding early? This blog explains and takes you step by step through the entire process.
By Howard Gordon, Food Export – Northeast Branded Program Manager
Have you ever wondered why Food Export-Midwest and Food Export-Northeast recommend that suppliers apply for Branded Program funding early?
Approvals of funding are reviewed on a first come – first serve basis. Once all of the funding we have has been awarded suppliers then go to a waitlist. With the graduation rule being eliminated in 2021, and the increasing number of interested companies participating in the program, it is more important than ever before to get a head start in the process.
Our program year opens annually for applications on August 1st. On that day a supplier can begin the steps to becoming a Branded Program participant for the following calendar year. For example, on August 1, 2020 the application process opened for Branded Program participants who would want to utilize funding during the 2021 calendar year.
Another key reason to apply early is to ensure that you are eligible for expenses for the duration of the program year (Jan 1 to Dec 31). If you wait until after December 31st to apply, the program year would start on your application submission date.
Below we outline the 5 steps to qualifying for and utilizing the Branded Program.
This is the first step of the process that only takes 5 minutes to complete and has no cost to suppliers!
In this step, a supplier would visit our website and create an account, if they haven’t already. Then they would go to their Branded Portal, click the Branded Program tab, click 2021 “submit a pre-qualification” to fill out a short, yearly required questionnaire.
In your Pre-Qualification we want to learn more about why you want to participate, what you will be promoting, and certifying that you meet the program requirements.
We recommend taking care of this step as early as possible.
Once your pre-qual has been received, and we have verified that you meet the program requirements, you will receive a pre-approval email and can continue in the application process.
Now that you have pre-qualified, and have been pre-approved in the program, you may apply for program year funding!
In your Branded Portal click “2021 submit an application”.
This step usually takes under 30 minutes to complete. We are looking for clarity in your application as well as the following information:
Once you have filled out your application and are ready to proceed to submitting it online, there is a non-refundable $250.00 application fee.
As soon as your fee is received, your application goes through an internal review process. During this review process, our team may have additional questions about your country marketing plans and your requested expenses. Once the review has been completed it is time to move on to Step 3!
Remember! – Completing and submitting your application early enables you to be approved for the entire program year and ensures the highest consideration in the order received of the funds available.
This step is crucial is finalizing your plans for the program year.
When your application has been approved, and our funding for the program year has been finalized, you will receive an “Action Required” email, confirming the amount that you have been approved for and your contract effective date, which is your application submission date.
This email will include the following:
Once the administrative fee payment has been received by check or ACH payment, the W9 form completed and emailed to the Branded Program Manager, and the contract has been electronically signed and emailed back, then a supplier is “Contracted” and can begin to prepare for claim submissions.
Once you are contracted and an eligible activity has passed, you can begin to your submit claims for reimbursement.
To get started you can go to your Branded Program portal and click “Submit Reimbursements” under the Reimbursements section. Submitting claims includes uploading your claim documentation, including the invoice, proof of payment, and proof of activity.
Once we have all of your correct documentation submitted, we can begin to process the claims and prepare them for reimbursement.
We recommend to submit all claims as soon as possible after the activity has been completed once you have complete documentation. Submitting claims later in the program year can yield a longer waiting period for processing. We continue to accept claim submissions until February 28th of the following year.
All contracted participants are required to complete an evaluation of the program, per the contract.
Evaluations typically are open and ready for you to complete starting in December. All evaluations must be received by February 28th.
In your evaluation, we are looking to compile the following information:
Once the evaluation is reviewed online and approved—all steps are completed in the process!
The Food Export-Midwest and Food Export-Northeast Branded Program teams are here to help guide you through the steps above. Please reach out to your Branded Program contact if you have any questions, or to your state Liaison to get started on your application for the first time.
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