USDA is expanding access to innovative online food purchase program
(Washington, D.C., April 17, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced approval of the District of Columbia (DC) and North Carolina’s requests to provide online purchasing of food to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Households. This approval will allow the State and Federal District to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date to be announced at a later time. DC’s SNAP participation is over 100,000 individuals, more than 66,000 households, and totals nearly $200 million annually in federal funding. North Carolina’s SNAP participation is over 1.2 million individuals, almost 600,000 households, and totals nearly $1.7 billion annually in federal funding. This announcement further demonstrates President Trump’s whole of America approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring those affected are fed.
The SNAP online pilot is currently operational in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Washington State. Nebraska joined the pilot on April 1, 2020. The authorized retailers working with all pilot states are Amazon and Walmart, while Wrights Market and ShopRite are working with Alabama and New York respectively. On April 8, it was announced that Arizona and California would be joining, and on April 11 announced Florida and Idaho.
Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is receiving interest to expand the SNAP online pilot program, the responsibility is on state agencies, their third-party processor, and any retailers who wish to participate. To ease the process, FNS put together a simplified template for states who wish to enter the online pilot which is provided as an attachment to this letter.
USDA continues to provide significant technical assistance to interested states to ensure that plans are thorough and appropriate preliminary testing is conducted. If not done properly and judiciously, there is a risk to the State’s entire benefit system. Each State, its EBT processor and retailers present their own mix of challenges so FNS is providing customer service based on each of their specific needs.
FNS will continue to work with interested states in advancing their participation in this pilot. Until States are prepared to operate the pilot, USDA recommends States utilize other options that retailers may already provide, such as Pay at Pick-up (also known as “Click and Collect”), where SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pick-up. Grocery pickup is already an option that these retailers offer beyond SNAP so they are already thinking through how they can provide a safe environment to do so with the growing concerns around social distancing.
During these challenging times, FNS is working hand-in-hand with state program leadership, to provide support and guidance to adapt to the challenges of this public health emergency. USDA intends to use available program flexibilities and contingencies to continue to serve our program participants. For up to date information and to learn more about flexibilities being used in FNS nutrition programs, please visit the FNS website.
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