U.S. Senate Ag Committee's farm bill draft omits SNAP changes


The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday approved a request from Colorado and a dozen other states to allow online purchases using federal food assistance.

Before March of this year, only New York and Washington allowed recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to order food online as a pilot program. Between March and April, the USDA added four more states. In the majority of participating states, Walmart and Amazon are the only authorized retailers to accept online payments.

There are approximately 415,000 SNAP recipients in Colorado whose benefits total $640 million annually. The green light from the USDA allows the state to work with previously authorized retailers to implement its own pilot.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized the gradual move toward people being able to use electronic benefits transfer cards for online purchases, although the federal dollars do not cover delivery or service fees. For states that are not deemed ready to implement Internet purchasing, the USDA recommends they move to online ordering that allows payment at pickup. Amazon advises its SNAP customers that they cannot set up recurring orders using their government benefits because, according to regulation, recipients have to enter their personal identification number for each purchase.

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