Utah has joined a growing number of states that have given the green light to low-income residents to shop for groceries online using their federal food aid benefits.
Citing the need to support social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, Utah officials announced on Wednesday (Aug. 6) that recipients of federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can now shop for groceries online using their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
The announcement covers more than 160,000 Utah residents in 67,000 different households who receive $235 million each year in SNAP benefits.
Still, Utah residents who rely on federal food stamps to make ends meet will have a limited choice when it comes to where to shop: Walmart and Amazon Grocery the only two retailers in the states that have agreed to process online purchases by customers using SNAP benefits.
“As we navigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the availability of this critical program will help many Utahns,” said Dale Ownby, eligibility services division director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services, in a press release. “Providing online purchasing options allows individuals more opportunity to practice social distancing, particularly for those who are high-risk.”
The rollout in Utah is good news for advocates who have been pushing for years now to allow SNAP recipients to buy groceries online, only to see a sluggish response by the federal government.
The slow rollout of a pilot program, which first hit the testing stages in 2017, has forced big retailers like Walmart that support online SNAP purchases to develop workarounds.
However, the emergence of COVID-19 may be providing an additional push, prompting a growing number of states to join the program.
In a press release issued in late June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP, announced that 36 states have approved online grocery purchases with federal food aid, with another four states slated to come online soon.