The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is getting a boost under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11.
The act allocates $25 million to make technological improvements to the program and extends the 15% increase in SNAP benefits, set to expire in June, to Sept. 30. The increase reportedly equates to about $25 extra per person each month.
Technological improvements to SNAP will include improving online purchasing, modernizing the electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system and supporting mobile payment technologies. The $25 million investment, to remain available through Sept. 30, 2026, will also include technical assistance to educate retailers on the process and technical requirements for the online acceptance of SNAP benefits, for mobile payments and for EBT modernization initiatives.
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The National Grocers Association (NGA), which has been advocating for assistance in accepting SNAP online since the beginning of the pandemic, applauded the enhancements to the program.
“Adoption of online grocery shopping continues to accelerate, mainly due to the pandemic. Making it easier for independent community grocers to offer this essential service to consumers who need it most ensures that SNAP recipients can redeem their benefits online, especially in areas where the small local grocery store may be the only convenient shopping option,” said Molly Pfaffenroth, senior director of government relations for Washington, D.C.-based NGA.
Other nutrition provisions included in the American Rescue Plan Act include:
- $1 billion to Puerto Rico and American Samoa for nutrition assistance, of which $30 million is for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island.
- $390 million to modernize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to be used for outreach and to improve participation and benefit redemption in the program. The act also provides the secretary of agriculture with authority and funding to temporarily boost the value of WIC’s cash value voucher for up to $35 per month for women and children for a four-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- $5 billion to maintain and expand the Pandemic-EBT program, which provides families with a voucher to purchase groceries to replace the breakfasts and lunches their children lost when schools closed. The act allows the program to be implemented for any school year in which there is a public health emergency designation and it allows benefits to be extended to the summer.
"This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving people in this nation, working people, middle class folks, people who built the country, a fighting chance," Biden said before signing the $1.9 trillion act, which also provides $1,400 direct payments to individuals making up to $75,000 annually, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments and $14 billion for vaccine distribution.