Pilot program allows Florida SNAP recipients to buy groceries online

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) announced this week that Florida will pilot a program allowing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to purchase groceries online using their EBT card – in theory reducing the need among SNAP users to  leave the safety of their homes and risk exposure to the highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in public supermarkets.

“Removing barriers and enhancing access to critical services, while supporting Florida’s infrastructure, remains a top priority for this agency, ” DCF Secretary Chad Poppell says in a prepared statement issued earlier this week. “I commend Governor [Ron] DeSantis for taking yet another proactive action to equip Florida families with resources, while keeping their health and safety at the forefront. This is an innovative, common sense efficiency that will strengthen our families during this time of uncertainty.”

SNAP participants are automatically eligible to participate in the pilot  program and do not need to apply or take any other action to get started. The program in Florida officially commences this Thursday, April 16, when Walmart will launch an initial pilot at all five Tallahassee locations. Walmart already accepts SNAP benefits at all its brick and mortar locations in the United States. Customers will be able to use their EBT cards and opt for curbside pick-up, a DCF news release states.

“Customers rely on us to help put food on their tables and our Pickup and Delivery options are playing a more important role than ever in helping them do that,” said Beverly Cole, Walmart senior director of payment acceptance. “Making these services available to more and more customers, no matter how they pay is a critical step in the right direction. More than 250 of our stores in Florida have pickup options and we’ll be ready to serve customers using SNAP no matter how they shop with us.”  

By April 21, online grocery purchasing will be available at both Walmart and Amazon.com statewide, according to DCF.  Additional internet/web-based marketplaces are expected to get on board in the coming months; a DCF news release states the department will continue to coordinate with the US Department of Agriculture and the Florida Retail Federation to expand the network of retailers participating in the pilot program.

Kristina Herrmann, director of underserved populations at Amazon, said, “Amazon remains committed to making food accessible through online shopping, offering all customers access to low prices, selection, and convenience. “This is especially important as millions of Americans are being encouraged to stay at home. We continue to work closely with state officials and the USDA as the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot grows to expand our capabilities in supporting under-served customers.”

“This program comes at a critical time as Florida encourages preventative measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Florida Retail Federation Vice President and General Counsel Lorena Holley added.  “The Florida Retail Federation appreciates DCF’s commitment to utilizing technology and removing bureaucracy to ensure Florida businesses can provide the services needed to Florida families.”

Officials overseeing the new program – a partnership of  federal, state, and local agencies, vendors and other partners  – say the program will ensure that all Floridians can access nutritious food while also practicing social distancing and self-quarantining to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Jim Johnson, a vice president with Fidelity Information Systems (FIS), Florida’s EBT vendor, said, “Fidelity Information Systems (FIS) commends Florida for responding to its customer’s needs in a quick and efficient manner. We have been working diligently with the state to ensure our customers have consistent and timely access to their benefits during this pivotal time and look forward to the successful implementation of this pilot.”

Utilization of food assistance benefits remains limited to the purchasing of eligible grocery items and cannot be used to pay for delivery services.

Learn more at myflfamilies.com/covid19/access.shtml.

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