U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Wednesday announced emergency benefit increases have reached $2 billion per month for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households across all 50 states and three U.S. territories to increase food security during the coronavirus national emergency. These emergency benefits represent a 40% increase in overall monthly SNAP benefits, according to the USDA, significantly increasing food purchasing power for American families.
“These are unprecedented times for American families who are facing joblessness and hunger,” said Perdue. “USDA is providing a 40% increase in SNAP benefits to ensure that low-income individuals have enough food to feed themselves and their families during this national emergency.”
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law by President Trump, provided for the issuance of emergency allotments in response to COVID-19. Across the United States, emergency allotments total nearly $2 billion per month, which is in addition to approximately $4.5 billion in benefits already provided to SNAP households each month.
All SNAP households that are eligible to receive less than the maximum benefit will receive the emergency allotment supplement to bring them up to the maximum. By law, SNAP households are not permitted to receive more than the maximum allotment. SNAP emergency allotments allow states to raise benefits to the maximum amount for the household’s size for up to two months, and the USDA is providing additional guidance to states that want to further extend these emergency allotments month by month as prescribed by the law.
According to the USDA, currently a household with two adults, three children and no income can receive the maximum benefit of $768. However, due to reportable income and other factors, the average 5-person household receives significantly less, $528. These emergency benefits would provide the average 5-person household an additional $240 monthly in food purchasing power, bringing the average household up to the same benefit level as households already receiving the maximum.
SNAP shopping online
Perdue on Tuesday also announced the approval of requests from the states of Kentucky, Missouri and Texas to provide online purchasing of food to SNAP households. This approval will allow the states to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date to be announced at a later time.
The SNAP online pilot, which kicked off in New York in April 2019, is also currently operational in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington State. The authorized retailers working with all pilot states are Amazon and Walmart, while Wrights Market and ShopRite are working with Alabama and New York, respectively. The USDA recently announced that Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, the District of Columbia and West Virginia would also be joining the online pilot program. With these 16 states, more than half of all households receiving SNAP will have access to online purchasing.
FMI-The Food Industry Association commended the rollout of the online SNAP plan to more states. “We’re pleased USDA’s online SNAP program has rapidly expanded to include 16 states this past month," said Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer of the Arlington, Va.-based association. "As the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a more urgent need for more customers to be able to use online grocery shopping. Offering online ordering and payment for SNAP customers is an important step to address the evolving needs of U.S. grocery digital shoppers and works to ensure that we leave no customer unserved at this critical time.
She continued, “It is essential that additional retailers are authorized to offer online SNAP sales as additional states join the online SNAP program. FMI is working closely with USDA to ensure any SNAP retailer who would like to and is able to participate can be authorized as an online SNAP retailer as swiftly as possible. We appreciate the agency’s efforts to help streamline the process and work with grocers who would like to become authorized online SNAP retailers.”
According to FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 tracker, 20% of Americans tried online shopping for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The interest in online SNAP sales has subsequently grown as grocers work to serve all their customers during unprecedented time, Hatcher noted.
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