HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Online groceries will soon be available to Pennsylvania residents who are recipients of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Governor Tom Wolf's office announced Wednesday.
The USDA has approved Pennsylvania to join the pilot program that lets those using SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, purchase groceries through participating retailers. Currently, there are three approved retailers for the program: Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite.
"Many people have been purchasing groceries online to facilitate social distancing, but SNAP recipients were not able to do so due to federal restrictions on SNAP and ecommerce. In most cases, SNAP recipients do not have flexibility to use online purchasing for grocery delivery or curbside pick-up, potentially putting health and safety at risk during this health crisis," said Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller.
Though the approval has been received, officials said, it will take time for changes to be implemented.
DHS is working with its EBT vendor and the approved retailers to make the system changes needed for online payment through SNAP.
According to officials, the changes have an approximately two-week testing and validation implementation timeline that began with the USDA's approval.
"So DHS expects to have online grocery purchasing activated for SNAP recipients by the beginning of June," officials said.
Only eligible food items that are normally paid by SNAP will be able to be purchased online. Delivery fees, driver tips, and other charges may not be paid for with SNAP benefits, officials said.
"Due to the expedited timeframe to implement, this initiative does not include the ability to transact Cash Assistance benefits using the EBT card. Therefore, individuals will need to use another method of payment to cover the non-allowable fees such as a pre-paid debit card," officials said.
If retailers do not want to sign up for the program, they can still use a mobile EBT processing device to allow customers to pay with SNAP when groceries are delivered or picked up.
Farmers markets may be able to receive this processing equipment at no cost through a grant opportunity provided by DHS.
DHS is continuing to process applications for SNAP and encourages people and families who need assistance to apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us.