SNAP benefits allow for online grocery purchases, with a catch

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WASHINGTON D.C. (WCMH) — There’s a new, safer way to get food for many Americans who receive SNAP benefits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now allowing SNAP benefits to be used for online grocery purchases, but there’s a catch.

In 37 states, people who get SNAP benefits can soon buy their groceries online from certain stores as part of a USDA pilot program.

“I’m glad the Department of Agriculture is finally recognizing that we use technology,” Ohio democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said. “We do whatever it takes to get food to families.”

Brown supports the USDA’s added flexibility, especially as the Trump administration moves to tighten access to the SNAP program.

“There shouldn’t be politics when it comes to feeding children,” Brown said.

So far, 19 states have current access to the program and another 18 are approved. With more than 30 million Americans out of work, the need is extreme.

“A whole lot of kids, a whole lot of families are not getting the meals they need,” Brown said.

But SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase food online. They don’t cover things like service charges or delivery fees. That means most SNAP recipients will still need to pick up the food in person.

“Ultimately you want it to cover everything, but this is a great first and second step,” Ohio democratic representative Tim Ryan said.

Ryan supports the program, but admits it can be improved.

“We’re going to continue to try to work out the wrinkles but at the end of the day, this is a massive step in the right direction,” he said.

Right now, only two retailers, Amazon and Walmart, are available for online SNAP purchases in all of the 19 states currently using the system, with more states expected to join in the coming months.

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