Amazon is now accepting federal benefit payments for online grocery orders in 25 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. Eligible consumers can now use SNAP payments for online grocery purchases in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Amazon has already been accepting SNAP payments for online grocery orders in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Washington, D.C.
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.
Through the pilot, 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 AmazonFresh and Prime Pantry without requiring a membership fee, and with free shipping for with free shipping available on Amazon Fresh and Amazon Pantry.
“With online acceptance of SNAP, Amazon’s selection, competitive pricing, and home delivery can improve the grocery shopping experience for SNAP participants, while also helping them extend their benefits further,” said Kristina Herrmann, director of underserved populations, Amazon, said in a corporate blog post. “Access to Amazon’s grocery selection, as well as Amazon Fresh and Pantry, increases access for low-income residents by adding a new SNAP redemption option and the convenience of home delivery. As we expand participating areas throughout the life of the pilot, Amazon believes the program will dramatically increase access to food for more remote customers.”
Amazon plans to continue expanding the pilot to other states. The ultimate goal is to pave the way for a national rollout once the USDA identifies the best path to large-scale implementation.
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.