Arlington, VA – The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, today applauded the introduction of legislation that would expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online purchasing to independent grocers by reducing existing barriers preventing participation in the program. The Expanding SNAP Options Act (H.R. 7535), was introduced Thursday, July 9, by Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL).
“America’s independent supermarket operators serve as the backbone to their communities and have been strong partners in the SNAP food delivery system, serving millions of low-income households, including families with children, the elderly, and disabled. Food retailers have experienced unprecedented demand for online services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while many independent grocers have launched innovative solutions, for example curbside and home delivery, to better serve their communities during these challenging times, it is imperative for all independent grocers to have an opportunity to offer eligible food products and process SNAP payments online,” said NGA Senior Vice President of Government relations and counsel, Christopher Jones.
The grocery industry is seeing an increase in customers using online and delivery services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also increased participation in SNAP; however, as of March, only a few states and retailers had the authority to allow SNAP participants to use their benefits online. USDA swiftly responded to this concern by expanding its SNAP online purchasing pilot program, allowing additional states and retailers to apply to participate.
SNAP online purchasing is now approved in 43 states and the District of Columbia, but independent retailers still face barriers offering the program to customers. Establishing a system to accept SNAP payments online is a lengthy process, requiring a certain point-of-sale technology and website functions. In addition, the system requires approval from USDA and must go through a testing period.
Rep. Kelly’s legislation expands the opportunity for additional retailers to participate in SNAP online purchasing by:
· Creating a technical assistance center designed to provide support to independent grocers lacking capacity and resources to support SNAP online purchasing;
· Providing grants to retailers needing financial assistance to offer SNAP online purchasing;
· Developing an online and app-based portal for Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) redemption to support small retailers in SNAP online purchasing;
· Expanding SNAP online purchasing to all states nationwide.
Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate on July 2 by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). NGA is urging Congress to include provisions in the next COVID-19 relief package that provide independent grocers with financial assistance and resources to decrease the burden of participating in SNAP online purchasing.