Virginia senators urge USDA to approve request for SNAP online pilot program
Virginia's two Democratic senators are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to approve Virginia's request to participate in a new pilot program that would let SNAP recipients use their benefits to buy groceries online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Farm Bill passed back in 2014 requires the USDA to establish a pilot program testing the feasibility of SNAP beneficiaries using their benefits online with authorized retailers. Since that time, only a few states have been authorized to be a part of that pilot program, with systems set up to allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits online.
During the current public health emergency, though, the USDA has been working to expand the program to more states on a case-by-case basis, if they meet the requirements to administer the online program.
“The current public health crisis has resulted in an unprecedented rise in unemployment and a subsequent increase in demand for our nation’s anti-hunger programs, including SNAP, " wrote Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. "While USDA has moved swiftly to reduce barriers and increase access to this program during the current public health emergency, most SNAP recipients are only able to utilize these benefits in person at grocery stores or other retailers. This requirement places SNAP recipients at higher risk of infection, as they are not able to utilize various online grocery delivery services that are available for consumers."
In their letter, they urge the USDA to approve a request from the Virginia Department of Social Services to be a part of the pilot program, while also urging the program to be expanded nationwide.
“To ensure the health and safety of SNAP beneficiaries in the Commonwealth, we urge USDA to work with the Virginia Department of Social Services to approve Virginia’s request to participate in the Department’s SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot as quickly as possible. We also urge USDA to do everything within its power to expand this program nationwide so SNAP recipients across the country have the option to use online grocery delivery options and reduce their exposure to COVID-19,” they continued.
Last month, Kaine and Warner were among senators who pushed the USDA to waive a requirement that made it mandatory for children to physically accompany parents to receive reimbursable meals from school lunch i=distribution sites.
A copy of the letter sent by Kaine and Warner is below: