USDA Allows New Jersey to Operate SNAP Online

New Jersey residents are now able to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to order groceries online after USDA approved the program.

There are about 700,000 participants in NJ SNAP, representing about 356,000 households. Many New Jersey lawmakers noted the availability of the program would help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and to contend with will certainly be rising enrollment due to the economic effects stemming from the public health crisis.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 700,000 New Jerseyans, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities, relied on SNAP, and that number has only continued to increase,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

Complying with Federal Rules

Although the state was eligible to participate in the program in April 2019, New Jersey was not formally admitted into the online trial until May 2020.

Purchases made through Amazon were authorized as of May 27, with Walmart, ShopRite, and the Fresh Grocer authorized on May 28.

Recipients will be able to use their Families First Electronic Benefits Transfer card to purchase eligible groceries from the retailers, but under federal rules, the benefits cannot be used on delivery fees.

Protecting Against Further Infection

About 37% of participating families in NJ SNAP have an elderly or disabled member of their household; additionally, most were families with children. The online program was a way to protect the health of these vulnerable members of society by keeping them out of stores.

“As more and more families turn to online food shopping to avoid going to crowded stores during this outbreak, families that rely on SNAP deserve to have the same access. This will keep families across New Jersey fed and healthy as we continue combatting this pandemic,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Rep. Bill Pascrell noted online shopping has become the norm in 2020.

“During this pandemic, we need to keep a special eye out for the neediest among us who so often fall through the cracks. All Americans must be able to buy food without excuses or technical hurdles,” he said.

Hopes to Continue for the Future

Two State Senators argued the program should remain even following the pandemic, arguing it fit with an overall trend of U.S. citizens moving their lives online.

“This is the smart and safe thing to do now, but with so much of our lives moving online, I hope that this program can continue even after the pandemic passes,” said State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-19).

Additionally, Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35) noted online grocery deliveries were an important tool New Jersey had used in flattening the curve, and hoped to see it continue into the future.

“As the virus will continue to be around until a vaccine is available, this program should remain available long after the shelter in place order is lifted,” she said.

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