Sen. Warren Introduces Legislation To Implement & Expand Online SNAP Purchasing Nationwide

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The following is a media release from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. She was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. She is a Democrat.

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WASHINGTON DC – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and eight of their senate colleagues in introducing a bill to address hunger needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond by requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to expand online Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) purchasing choices.

The Expanding SNAP Options Act would provide funding for the creation of a universal online and app-based portal to make access to nutritious foods from the full variety of SNAP retailers possible and easy to navigate for consumers.

Online SNAP purchasing is currently limited to a very small number of approved retailers due to technological and financial barriers, and in many states, the only options are Walmart and Amazon—leaving out smaller and independent grocers, local growers, farmers markets, and other specialty neighborhood retailers.

The bill also provides funding for a USDA Technical Assistance Center to help smaller retailers in establishing online purchasing capabilities.

This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). Representative Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) will be introducing a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Although some retailers allow SNAP for in-person grocery pickup, options are limited as it requires the grocer to have certain point-of-sale technology available. Not only do these challenges limit safe food options for SNAP recipients, but it also restricts small farmers, independent retailers, and other food providers from the economic benefit of SNAP payments. 

Nearly 50 million Americans rely on SNAP, and that number has dramatically increased in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as nearly 18 million Americans are now claiming some form of unemployment benefit. With stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements, many Americans have turned to grocery store pickup and delivery services to fulfill their food needs and limit exposure to others. However, Americans relying on SNAP have faced barriers with online and delivery food services.

The Expanding SNAP Options Act would address hunger needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond by doing the following:

  •  Require the Secretary of Agriculture to implement online SNAP purchasing in all states;
  • Provide $25 million to develop and maintain a secure, easy-to-use online and app-based portal for EBT redemption to support smaller retailers in offering products for online SNAP purchasing and;
  • Provide $75 million for the creation of a USDA Technical Assistance Center to facilitate online purchasing and use of the portal for smaller retailers, direct-to-consumer farmers, and farmers’ markets, and provide public information about which local vendors participate in SNAP online purchasing.

This legislation has been endorsed by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, Food Systems for the Future, Hunger Free America, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, National Grocers Association, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, Farmers Market Coalition, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Slow Food USA, John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Sustainable Food Center, Coastal Enterprises Inc, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, CDFI Coalition, Reinvestment Fund, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Farmers Market Association, Experimental Station, Farm to Table, National Organic Coalition, Organic Farming Association, Friends of Family Farmers, National Young Farmers Coalition.

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