USDA is expanding access to innovative online food purchase program
(Washington, D.C., May 8, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced approval of a request from Rhode Island to provide online purchasing of food to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households. This approval will allow Rhode Island 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. Rhode Island’s SNAP participation is more than 141,000 individuals, more than 84,000 households, and totals $244 million annually in federal benefits. This announcement further demonstrates President Trump’s whole of America approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring those affected are fed.
SNAP online purchasing is currently operational in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, and Washington State. The authorized retailers working with all states are Amazon and Walmart, while Wrights Market and ShopRite are working with Alabama and New York respectively. USDA previously announced the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Vermont, Minnesota, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico would also be implementing online purchasing in the near future. With these states, more than half of all households receiving SNAP will have access to online purchasing.
Multiple stakeholders – notably, state agencies, their third-party processor, and any retailers that wish to participate – must work together to implement online purchasing using SNAP benefits. To ease the process, FNS put together a simplified template for states that want to operate online purchasing and provided guidance to interested retailers, which is available online.
USDA continues to provide significant technical assistance to all interested stakeholders to ensure implementation plans are thorough and appropriate preliminary testing is conducted to avoid compromising the state’s entire benefit system. Each state, EBT processor, and retailer presents their own mix of challenges so FNS is providing customer service based on each of their specific needs.
Until States are prepared to operate the pilot, USDA recommends utilizing 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. FNS is granting states significant program flexibilities and contingencies to best serve program participants across our 15 nutrition assistance programs. 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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