The National Grocers Association, the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, applauds the enhancements to national nutrition programs included in the American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.
Of particular benefit to the many Americans served by independent community grocers is the provision for $25 million to promote technological improvements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online purchasing, modernizing the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system and supporting SNAP mobile payment technologies.
“Adoption of online grocery shopping continues to accelerate, mainly due to the pandemic,” said Molly Pfaffenroth, NGA senior director of government relations. “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. NGA commends the Biden administration as well as the members of Congress who recognized this crucial need to provide technical assistance for retailers working through the SNAP online purchasing application and testing process.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, NGA has been advocating to Congress and the Administration the critical need for technical assistance for independent community grocers that desire to participate in SNAP online purchasing. The program is technically challenging to set up, particularly for small and mid-size grocers. The Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law in December 2019 provided $5 million for SNAP online purchasing, and the $25 million provided by the American Rescue Plan is a much-needed addition that will further enhance the opportunity to participate in this important program for independent community grocers.
NGA will soon be launching a SNAP Online Toolkit for its members that outlines the steps retailers may take to accept EBT payments online.
The American Rescue Plan also includes the following nutrition provisions:
- Additional SNAP funding – Continues the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through Sept. 30 that was previously set to expire in June and provides states with additional administrative funds to administer the program;
- Nutrition assistance programs – Additional funding to support the continued temporary 15 percent increase in benefits. Provides $1 billion to Puerto Rico and American Samoa for nutrition assistance, of which $30 million is for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island;
- WIC funding – Provides the secretary of agriculture with authority and funding to temporarily boost the value of the Cash Value Voucher (CVV) in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) up to $35 per month for women and children for a four-month period during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- WIC program modernization – Provides $390 million for outreach, innovation and program modernization efforts to improve participation and benefit redemption in the WIC program; and
- Pandemic EBT program – Allows the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program to be implemented for any school year in which the COVID-19 public health emergency designation is in effect and allows for P-EBT benefits to be extended to the summer.