Amazon is now accepting federal benefit payments for online grocery orders in 36 states and Washington, D.C.
The e-tail giant has been participating in a pilot with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that allows consumers who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits — typically referred to as food stamps — to purchase groceries online for home delivery. The pilot has expanded to provide access to Amazon grocery and household products to more than 90% of SNAP households in the U.S.
Customers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming can now use their SNAP benefits to shop for groceries on Amazon.
The e-tailer says it is working to expand access to additional states in the coming months. The ultimate goal is to pave the way for a national rollout once the USDA identifies the best path to large-scale implementation.
Through the program, SNAP participants can use their benefits to purchase eligible food items, but are not able to use SNAP benefits to pay for service or delivery charges. SNAP recipients in select states will have the ability to shop the grocery and household selection on Amazon Grocery, AmazonFresh, and Prime Pantry without requiring a membership fee, and with free shipping.
“What launched in 2019 as a pilot for expansion into only 10 states has quickly fast-tracked to a nearly national program in order to meet the evolving needs of customers, both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” said Kristina Herrmann, director of underserved populations, Amazon, in a corporate blog post. “Amazon volunteered to participate as a retailer in the USDA’s SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot in 2016 because we believe in its goals and to ensure that all customers have the opportunity to order groceries online.”
Major Amazon rival Walmart is currently accepting SNAP payments for online groceries in Washington. In addition, Kroger is rolling out SNAP payments for curbside pickup of online orders in all of its nearly 2,800 stores.
The 2014 Farm Bill authorized USDA to conduct and evaluate a pilot for online purchasing prior to national implementation. The pilot phase is intended to ensure online transactions are processed safely and securely. USDA anticipates all eligible and interested retailers who can meet the requirements to process online SNAP transactions will eventually be able to take part, though the timeline is dependent on the progress of the pilot and any regulations which may need to be issued.