Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, along with Rep. Bill Pascrell, are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants access to the agency’s online pilot program.
The program allows SNAP benefits to be used for online purchases of eligible products which can then be delivered. The lawmakers argued the program’s recipients would be able to leverage the program to better protect themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sens. Menendez and Booker and Congressman Pascrell noted the stay at home order allowed for citizens to visit grocery stores, but that many SNAP participants lived in food deserts that complicated the acquisition of healthy foods.
Additionally, with transit restrictions and many serving as full-time caregivers for children who are not in school, traveling outside could become an extended health risk.
“In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we request that USDA immediately allow New Jersey SNAP recipients to participate in this pilot program,” said the three lawmakers. “Allowing New Jerseyans to use their SNAP benefits for online purchases will protect them and all New Jerseyans as we continue to fight spread of the COVID-19 virus. We request that USDA make this authorization immediately in order to protect New Jersey SNAP recipients.”
Selected But Not Operational
New Jersey was selected in April 2019 by USDA to join Alabama, Iowa, New York, Oregon, and Washington in providing access to SNAP participants to the program. However, nearly a year after selection, New Jersey was not formally a part of the program.
The lawmakers noted SNAP currently benefits 705,000 New Jersey residents. Additionally, the majority of SNAP beneficiaries in the state are families with children, and more than 37% are families with members who are elderly or have disabilities.
The lawmakers requested a response from USDA on the matter by March 30.