USDA Offers $5 Million Grant to Expand Acceptance of EBT Food Stamps Online

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The USDA aims to increase the number of retailers offering online shopping for SFP benefits with a competitive $5 million grant that is currently seeking applications.

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The USDA said on its website that the SNAP EBT Update Technical Assistance Center grant, announced July 7, will fund an organization that can provide online shopping technology and systems support to retailers. The goal is to give SNAP participants access to a wider range of retailers while shopping for groceries online.

SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal program that provides assistance with purchasing food for low-income families. Beneficiaries are now paying with electronic benefit transfer cards.

SNAP’s online purchases are already available at major retailers like Target and Walmart as well as national and regional grocery chains like Wegmans, Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, Safeway, Aldi, and ShopRite. Dozens of small grocery stores also offer SNAP’s online shopping service.

But many grocery retailers still face technical challenges or limited resources to deploy or update e-commerce sites that allow them to offer online services that meet SNAP requirements. The new USDA Grant Program, described here, will provide technical support to help these small, independent stores offer online purchase to SNAP participants.

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“Online grocery shopping is a vital resource that improves access and convenience for all, including low-income families,” said Stacey Dean, deputy undersecretary of USDA for food, nutrition and consumer services, in a press release. “We are excited about the potential of this grant to provide new and existing retailers with tools to redeem SNAP benefits in ways that improve customer service for SNAP participants, especially those who face barriers to traveling to a physical store.”

The USDA said just over 3 million SNAP households shopped online in May 2022 — a big jump from March 2020, when about 35,000 SNAP households shopped online. The increase is mainly due to the rapid expansion of the USDA’s pilot e-commerce program during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Purchasing SNAP online is especially important to the communities we serve because of the ongoing fear of contracting COVID-19 in the grocery store, the risk of exposure to other infectious diseases, accessibility issues both in the store and with transportation, and pre-existing burdens on the grocery store,” said Cyrus Hunshark. Senior Public Policy Analyst at the National Network for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This scholarship is funded by the US Bailout Plan. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST, September 6, 2022. The scholarship will be announced in Fall 2022.

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: SNAP Investment: USDA Offers $5 Million Grant to Expand Acceptance of EBT Food Stamps Online

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