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What it means here: Feds expand online purchasing for assistance program

Feds expand online purchasing for assistance program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on Wednesday that households in 13 new states — including Pennsylvania — will soon be able to purchase food online with their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, according to a news release. Once operational, online purchasing will be available in 36 states and the District of Columbia, home to more than 90% of SNAP participants.

In addition, Perdue also announced an expansion of independently owned and operated retail stores beyond those included in the original pilot. Soon more SNAP authorized retailers, under multiple store banners, will be accepting SNAP benefits online.

“We are expanding new flexibilities and innovative programs to make sure Americans across this country have safe and nutritious food during this national emergency,” Perdue said, according to the news release. “Enabling people to purchase foods online will go a long way in helping Americans follow CDC social distancing guidelines and help slow the spread of the coronavirus. USDA is mandated with the noble goal of feeding Americans when they need it most, and we are fulfilling that mission with new innovative programs during this national emergency.”

In April 2019, Perdue announced the launch of the two-year SNAP online purchasing pilot that began in New York before being rolled out to additional states. As part of its response to COVID-19, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has worked closely with all interested states, retailers, and benefit processors to make online purchasing a reality for more SNAP households.

In less than six weeks, amidst an unprecedented situation, USDA has expanded SNAP online purchasing to 36 states and the District of Columbia — nearly three-quarters of the states, covering 90% of SNAP households, according to the news release.

For retailers and states that are not yet able to participate in online purchasing, FNS 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. SNAP recipients also have the ability to add an authorized user to their card to make purchases on their behalf.

During these challenging times, FNS has approved over 2,800 program flexibilities across its 15 nutrition assistance programs. For up to date information and to learn more about flexibilities being used in FNS nutrition programs, please visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus or follow us at @USDANutrition.

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