Shaheen Introduces Bill to Implement and Expand Online SNAP Purchasing Nationwide

February 09, 2021

**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**

**Shaheen has previously called for the expansion of the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program.**

                                                                                  

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced a bill with a group of Senators led by Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) 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 and farmers markets, and other specialty neighborhood retailers. The bill also provides funding for a USDA Technical Assistance Center to help smaller retailers in carrying out an online platform. Last May, Shaheen urged the USDA to expand SNAP participants’ access to the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program.

“Many Granite Staters are suffering from food insecurity during this health and financial crisis and rely on programs like SNAP to put food on the table and access the nutrition they need,” said Shaheen. “However, some people in rural or remote areas live far from SNAP-accepting retailers and need to commute long distances to shop for groceries, or simply don’t have the means to make these trips at all. By providing retailers and food producers of all sizes with the technical assistance they need to offer online SNAP purchasing, this legislation will increase access to affordable food supplies for Granite Staters and allow residents to purchase groceries safely amid the pandemic. As the Senate considers legislation to help Americans get through the COVID-19 crisis, I’ll continue to do everything in my power to combat food insecurity and pass commonsense legislation that helps families access the nutrition they need to eat and stay healthy.”

Nearly 50 million Americans, including approximately 76,000 in New Hampshire, 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 pick-up and delivery services to fulfill their food needs and avoid exposure to other people. However, Americans relying on SNAP have faced barriers with online and delivery food services.

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, it also restricts small farmers, independent retailers, and other food providers from the economic benefit of SNAP payments. In July of 2020, the state of New Hampshire was approved to participate in the USDA’s Online SNAP Purchasing Pilot Program. 

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.

Along with Shaheen, Durbin and Duckworth, the legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). 

Senator Shaheen has fought to ensure vulnerable families are able to access the nutrition they need during this economic and public health crisis. Shaheen successfully led bipartisan negotiations to provide $13 billion in nutrition assistance in the emergency COVID relief legislation that was passed by Congress and signed into law in December. This assistance included a 15 percent increase to individual SNAP benefits for six months, more than $1 billion in emergency funding for school and child care meal providers, an expansion of the Pandemic-EBT program to include families with young children, $400 million for food banks and $175 million for senior nutrition services, including Meals on Wheels. She has repeatedly led calls to strengthen nutrition assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last May, she urged the USDA to expand SNAP participants’ access to the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program.