Based on Minnesotans’ Feedback, Rep. Omar Introduces Bill to Expand the SNAP Online Purchasing Program

April 13, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) today unveiled the SNAP Online Purchasing Flexibility Act, a bill which would require the Secretary of Agriculture to allow all states that meet the necessary requirements to participate in the online purchasing program by allowing approved retail food stores to accept online transactions of SNAP benefits. The bill would expand the existing Department of Agriculture (USDA) SNAP online purchasing pilot program from 8 states to all states.

More than 45 million Americans rely on SNAP to put food on the table. Most recipients are unable to use EBT cards for online grocery orders. This leaves millions behind, including SNAP recipients in Minnesota.

“We shouldn’t be picking and choosing which families can and cannot get to order food online,” said Rep. Omar. “The Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to determine which states may participate in the program, yet as of now, USDA allows only 8 states to participate, leaving millions of vulnerable individuals behind. Families who face the added burdens caused by COVID-19 should not have to struggle to put food on the table. It is critical we fix this injustice and ensure that all families can access nutritious food regardless of how they pay for it.” 

“The bill came about after one of my constituents, Jessica, reached out to her City Council Member, Andrew Johnson, wondering why Minnesotans couldn’t use their EBT cards to purchase groceries online, multiple constituents and local elected officials reached out to my office,” Rep. Omar said. “State Rep. Michael Howard mentioned that he had heard similar concerns. So, we got to work on a federal fix for this. I want to extend my gratitude to Jessica for reaching out with the idea. Because of your actions, it is likely that tens of thousands of Minnesotans will soon have the ability to better protect themselves during the pandemic.”

The bill has been endorsed by Hunger Solutions Minnesota, The Good Acre in Minnesota, Appetite For Change, Inc., Linden Hills Farmer's Market, Frank & Ernest Foods, Pillsbury United Communities, Virginia Poverty Law Center, Native American Community Development Institute, Legal Services Advocacy Project, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, and Jewish Family and Children's Service.

“We must protect all families,” said Rhys Williams, Executive Director of The Good Acre in Minnesota. “Families that receive SNAP benefits and EBT cards should be able to order online regardless of which state they live in. Especially now we need to remove barriers to healthy food.”

“We are already experiencing the disparate economic, health, and psychosocial impacts of this pandemic on our most vulnerable communities. We must act now to ensure that every family is safe, healthy, and food secure,” said Tsega Tamene, Director of Community Health at the Pillsbury United Communities.

“Living in the most technologically advanced and richest nation in history, SNAP online purchasing should have happened much sooner and much quicker. Rep Omar's bill is not just good for our low-income neighbors, but it's also a boost to the economy during a difficult time,” said Salaam Bhatti, Staff Attorney at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.

“This bill will have an impact on our farmers market and help to keep healthy food in the American Indian community,” said Elizabeth Day, Community Engagement Programs Manager at the Native American Community Development Institute.

“The SNAP Online Purchasing Flexibility Act is a way for Americans to help our most vulnerable citizens comply with shelter in place directives and reduce their risk of exposure to COVID-19. Since the 2014 Farm Bill, online grocery has expanded rapidly to where it can reach over 92% of the US population. This is a simple, rational measure we can take to help the neighbors we love in extraordinary circumstances,” said Jim Lesch, Co-Founder of Basketful Co.

“The improvements proposed in this legislation are urgently needed to help JFCS clients and Minnesotans feed their families and stay safe during this time of national emergency,” said Lee Friedman at the Jewish Family and Children's Service.

Read more on the bill here. 

Read the full legislative text here.