New legislation that would reduce barriers for independent grocers to participate in the SNAP Online Purchasing program has been introduced by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), drawing cheers from an industry group.
“NGA is pleased to support the Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020. This legislation will be instrumental in helping grocers process online SNAP payments, allowing them to expand their e-commerce offerings to their SNAP customer base, and benefit low-income households, the elderly and disabled Americans,” said National Grocers Association (NGA) President and CEO Greg Ferrara. The pandemic has shifted more grocery sales online, and “it’s critical for all independents to have an opportunity to offer SNAP online, a process that can be resource and labor intensive,” he added.
The bill will help grocers participate who may otherwise lack the resources to do so, NGA said.
Through the SNAP public-private partnership, independent grocers serve millions of Americans in need of food assistance, ensuring low-income households have access to nutritional food options. The pandemic saw more consumers buying groceries online and using delivery services, while at the same time, the number of Americans using SNAP increased. However, as of March, only a few retailers in a few had authority to allow SNAP purchases online.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responded by expanding its SNAP online purchasing pilot program and allowing additional states and retailers to participate. SNAP online purchasing is now approved in 43 states and the District of Columbia, but many independent retailers still face barriers in offering the program to customers, NGA said, citing a lengthy process to set up to accept SNAP payments requiring point-of-sale technology, website functions, approval by the USDA and a testing period.
The Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020 is designed to expand SNAP online to more retail locations by doing the following:
- Creating a technical assistance center designed to provide support to independent grocers that lack capacity and resources to support SNAP online purchasing.
- Providing grants to retailers who need financial assistance in offering SNAP online.
- Developing an online and app-based portal for EBT redemption to support smaller retailers in offering products for online SNAP purchasing.
- Expanding SNAP online to all states nationwide.
Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming days. NGA said it was working to pass the legislation through Congress before it adjourns for the August recess.