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Independent Grocers Applaud Efforts To Expand SNAP Online Purchasing

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The National Grocers Association applauds Congress for efforts to make Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program online purchasing more accessible to independent community grocers.

This week, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (both D-IL) reintroduced the Expanding SNAP Options Act, and the House Agriculture Committee advanced its budget reconciliation bill. Both pieces of legislation provide significant funding for the SNAP online purchasing program in the form of technical assistance for small and mid-size retailers.

NGA commends Durbin and Duckworth as well as the House Agriculture Committee for recognizing the essential need to reduce existing barriers preventing participation in this program.

“Independent community grocers are the backbone of their communities,” said Greg Ferrara, NGA president and CEO. “As essential partners in the SNAP food delivery system, they serve millions of low-income households, including families with children, the elderly and disabled. Supermarkets have seen unprecedented demand for online services during the pandemic, and while many retailers have launched innovative solutions, such as curbside and home delivery, all independent grocers must have an opportunity to offer eligible food products and process SNAP payments online.”

The Expanding SNAP Options Act, introduced Tuesday, was originally introduced last July, along with companion legislation sponsored in the House by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), who is expected to reintroduce a companion bill soon. NGA has been working with the Congressional offices to identify potential solutions to existing barriers independent grocers face in offering the program.

“The National Grocers Association applauds the effort by Sens. Durbin and Duckworth to expand access to the SNAP online purchasing program. NGA is particularly pleased with the provision that would create a technical assistance center to help more independent community grocers offer SNAP online purchasing. We look forward to working with Congress to help broaden access to nutritious food for those Americans who need it most,” said Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA senior director of government relations.

The grocery industry is seeing an increase in customers using online and delivery services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also increased participation in SNAP; however, as of last March, only a few states and retailers had the authority to allow SNAP participants to use their benefits online. USDA swiftly responded to this concern by expanding its SNAP online purchasing pilot program, allowing additional states and retailers to apply to participate.

To date, 47 states have launched SNAP online purchasing but independent retailers face significant barriers offering the program to customers. Establishing a system to accept online SNAP payments is a lengthy and expensive process, requiring certain point-of-sale technology and website functions. Additionally, the system requires USDA approval and must go through a testing process.

The Senate legislation expands the opportunity for additional retailers to participate in SNAP online purchasing by doing the following:

  • Requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to implement online SNAP purchasing in all states;
  • Providing $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;
  • Providing $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.

NGA also applauds the House Agriculture Committee’s fiscal year 2021 budget reconciliation legislation, which was approved Feb. 10. The bill provides $25 million to promote technological improvements for SNAP online purchasing and other technology-related modernizations and to fund additional technical assistance for retailers.

“Chairman David Scott is a strong supporter of equitable access to fresh, healthy food in rural and urban areas,” Pfaffenroth said. “We appreciate recognition by the chairman and the committee of the important role online grocery shopping plays in helping low-income families acquire the groceries they need.”

NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for close to one percent of the nation’s overall economy and is responsible for generating $131 billion in sales, 944,000 jobs, $30 billion in wages and $27 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers, state grocers associations, as well as manufacturers and service suppliers.

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