More purchasing options in the works for SNAP recipients

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture clears the way for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP benefits, to eventually be available via Mountain State EBT cards for online purchases with Walmart and Amazon.

The projected launch date was the middle of May, according to Jackie Hoppe, director of EBT Banking Services for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

“It’s just yet another vehicle for helping our SNAP recipients who have food insecurities, especially in a state that has so many food deserts,” Hoppe said.

To start, the newly-allowed purchases would be through Walmart and Amazon for pickups and deliveries.

“There are several stakeholders that are involved and we need to do development of the system to make sure it works,” Hoppe said of the next steps.

“We also need to do some testing to make sure that the transactions occur accurately with each of the retailers. Once that’s done, then we would go live.”

West Virginia SNAP participation includes nearly 300,000 people and close to $400 million annually in federal funding, the USDA reported.

The online purchase program started as a pilot from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service last year.

It’s already operational in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington.

Nebraska joined on Apr. 1, 2020 and several other states have followed in recent weeks.

“This was a pre-pandemic initiative,” Hoppe said.

“There were two states that were approved and then as the pandemic made trying to provide benefits more accessibly to all EBT cardholders, several states realized that this was an option that we needed to pursue.”

Currently, Mountain State EBT cards can be used to pay for online grocery orders from Walmart and Amazon along with additional retailers when cards can be swiped at stores or delivery points.

This change would not require in-person swipes at the approved retailers.

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