Two major retailers are accepting federal benefit payments for online grocery orders in a new state.
Amazon and Walmart are extending the reach of a pilot program they have been participating in with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that allows consumers who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits — typically referred to as food stamps — to purchase groceries online for home delivery. Amazon is now accepting SNAP payments for online grocery purchases in the greater Seattle area — with plans to soon accept them in the rest of Washington - while Walmart is currently accepting SNAP payments for online groceries throughout Washington.
In April 2019, Amazon launched the online grocery pilot with the USDA in sections of New York City, while Walmart began testing the service in areas of upstate New York. Walmart also accepts SNAP payments via EBT benefits card for in-store pickup of online grocery purchases chainwide.
Through the pilot, SNAP participants can use their benefits to purchase eligible food items but are not able to use SNAP benefits to pay for service or delivery charges. SNAP recipients in pilot areas will have the ability to shop the grocery and household selection on AmazonFresh and Prime Pantry without requiring a membership fee, and with free shipping for orders of a minimum cost.
Other retailers participating in the New York state pilot include ShopRite. The pilot will eventually further expand to Alabama, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Oregon. The ultimate goal of the pilot is to pave the way for a national rollout once the USDA identifies the best path to large-scale implementation.
“Access to Amazon’s grocery selection, as well as Amazon Fresh and Pantry, increases access for low-income Washington residents by adding a new SNAP redemption option and the convenience of home delivery,” Kristina Herrmann, director of underserved populations at Amazon, said in a corporate blog post. “As we expand participating areas throughout the life of the pilot, Amazon believes the program will dramatically increase access to food for more remote customers and help to mitigate the public health crisis of food deserts.”
"We continue to be excited to be part of the USDA’s pilot program and to be able to make our grocery pickup and delivery service available to more and more people, regardless of their payment method,” Walmart said in an official statement. “Access to convenience, quality and fresh groceries shouldn’t be dictated by how you pay. We have a strong presence in the states in which the pilot is live and we look forward to expanding."
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The pilot phase is intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely. USDA anticipates all eligible and interested retailers who can meet the requirements to process online SNAP transactions will eventually be able to take part, though the timeline is dependent on the progress of the pilot and any regulations which may need to be issued.