CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WHSV) — Among the announcements made in Governor Ralph Northam's Friday press briefing was that Virginia's request to join a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program for families with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits has been approved.
The pilot program allows families who receive SNAP benefits to use their benefits to order groceries online and have them delivered.
It allows more than 740,000 Virginians who receive SNAP benefits to pay for food online using their benefits for the first time ever.
“This continued public health emergency has made access to healthy, affordable food challenging, particularly for Virginians who live in food deserts, have disabilities, or face transportation barriers,” said Governor Northam. “Allowing Virginia families who receive SNAP benefits to purchase groceries online and have them safely delivered to their homes will give vulnerable populations additional flexibility to put food on the table without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.”
The program, which Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine urged the USDA to approve for Virginia last month, is a pilot program mandated through the 2014 Farm Bill to test the feasibility of allowing USDA-approved retailers to accept online transactions.
Its rollout has been sped up in many states due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many more people to rely on online orders.
For Virginia, the program will launch statewide on Friday, May 29, with two vendors at first: Amazon and Walmart.
Other retailers interested in joining the program need to contact the Department of Agriculture.
Kroger announced last month that they were starting to accept orders for pickup using SNAP benefits, but it appears that's through a separate system.
Those with SNAP benefits will use their Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) to make transactions at Walmart or Amazon.
The benefits can't be used to pay for any fees, like delivery, service, or convenience fees, so purchases may have to be split between both SNAP and another form of payment.
There is no additional fee for pick-up orders at Walmart; however, there is a charge for delivery orders, which cannot be paid with an EBT card. The transaction can be split between an EBT card and another credit/debit card to cover the delivery fee.
As for Amazon, delivery fees can't be covered by the EBT card, but purchases over $25 will receive free delivery and cardholders can split purchases between the EBT card and another credit or debit card.
The online checkout process will automatically filter out any items that are not qualified for SNAP benefits.
“With so many Americans already opting to stay safe at home by ordering their groceries online, it’s only right that we make every effort to ensure our most vulnerable families are also able to take advantage of these services,” said United States Senator Mark R. Warner. “After having pushed USDA to approve Virginia’s participation in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program, I’m glad to know that many more families in the Commonwealth will soon be able to access nutritious food without requiring them to leave their homes.”
“I’m grateful that following our request, the USDA has approved Virginia’s inclusion in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program,” said United States Senator Tim Kaine. “Especially at this time of great food insecurity, it’s critical that Virginians have the resources they need to safely access food.”
The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) administers SNAP in the Commonwealth.
“Agencies and leaders across the Commonwealth are constantly collaborating on innovative ways to meet the needs of individuals, families and communities during this pandemic,” said VDSS Commissioner S. Duke Storen. “Addressing the adaptive needs of Virginians right now, particularly expanding access to food, remains at the forefront of everything we are doing.”
More information about SNAP benefits in Virginia is available on the VDSS website.
The new options will also help families who don't normally have EBT cards but are getting special ones for the summer to help children who normally receive free or reduced lunches at school.