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Picking up EBT Cards at local DTA Offices, Build Back Better and Fed SNAP bills, Online Purchasing Survey

We hope you are planning to get some well-deserved time over the Thanksgiving break. Per tradition, there is NO SNAP Coalition meeting on Tuesday, November 23rd  (nor the last week of December). 

The next formal SNAP Coalition meeting is Tuesday, December 7th from 10 to 11:30 AM. It will be a chock-filled exciting meeting!

1.     Getting In-Person EBT Cards at Local DTA Offices – EBT Card Fliers 

Starting early November, DTA returned to its pre-COVID policy allowing SNAP households to pick up an over-the-counter EBT card at local DTA Offices. EBT cards will also be mailed out as well, but households have a choice. Thank you DTA!

As Coalition members recall, due to COVID, local DTA offices were closed to the public from March 16, 2020 to June 28, 2021. Upon “reopening” local offices, DTA implemented a very restrictive EBT card issuance policy that caused significant access barriers and disparate treatment - especially impacting homeless and doubled up households with no or unreliable mailing addresses. In response to advocacy from SNAP Coalition members, MLRI and local Advisory Boards, DTA changed its EBT card policy. Thanks to all who weighed in! 

Yesterday, DTA reported to the Boston DTA Advisory Board that 1,200 EBT cards had been issued in person at DTA offices in the first two weeks of November. By comparison, from July through September, only 93 EBT cards had been issued over the counter. This policy change is a significant access improvement for families. 

Are you seeing any families who still do not have access to their SNAP or cash benefits? These families may be asking for emergency food at food pantries because they still do not have EBT  cards. MLRI’s AmeriCorps Lilydahn Stewart created fliers - available here in English and Spanish - on all of the ways clients can receive EBT Cards. Please share these fliers widely and reach out to MLRI if you hear from individuals denied an initial or replacement EBT card. 

2.     Build Back Better Act and Federal SNAP Legislation – Time to “talk turkey” 

We know you are chomping at the bit for some interactive dinner conversations over the Thanksgiving break. And what better to discuss to “talk turkey” by talking about important state and federal legislation that Congress needs to pass!  We have TWO conversational items and action steps: 

·         Build Back Better Act and Child Nutrition: It is critical to keep pressure on Congress to include robust Child Nutrition provisions in the BBBA. Please TAKE ACTION HERE to communicate with your Member of Congress (MOC) today.

·         Important SNAP legislation needing more Members of Congress: Attached is a list of priority federal SNAP legislation needing more co-sponsors. We’ve identified the MA MOCs on each bill (huge TY to Congress members McGovern and Pressley). And here’s a link to the FRAC priority federal bills in both child nutrition, SNAP and other anti-poverty bills to keep track of during the current Congressional Session. Take ACTION and ask your MOC to sign on if not listed.  And THANK them if they are!

·         SNAP Meal Gap Map: And if you really want to impress family and friends with your SNAP fact prowess, check out the Urban Institute’s SNAP Meal Gap Map that shows how even the increased SNAP benefits are woefully inadequate in meeting the average cost of a meal in all Massachusetts counties.  For more data, here’s an MLRI power point presentation we recently shared with the MA MOC staff on 11/10.

 

3.     SNAP EBT Online Purchasing – Survey Tool to Track Shopping Barriers

In May 2020, MA joined the EBT Online Purchasing program. SNAP households can use their SNAP benefits to make online food purchases at Amazon and Walmart, and through InstaCart at Aldis, Stop & Shop, Price Chopper and Hannaford. While these expanded options are important – especially for households that cannot shop in person – a growing number of SNAP households have struggled with the online portals including households with disabilities, older adults, limited technology, limited English. Based on DTA SNAP aggregate purchasing data, for the first 2 months of online EBT in MA, only 2.5% of all SNAP and P-EBT EBT food purchases were online purchases (see attached). 
 

MLRI’s Lilydahn Stewart has been testing the online EBT purchasing process and talking with SNAP households. She found: 

 

·         Many platforms required the user to create an account first and add the EBT card number through a “profile page”, rather than at the end of checkout. 

·         Platforms may charge packing and delivery fees (for ex $9.95 per delivery for Stop & Shop and Amazon Fresh). These are not SNAP allowable expenses, requiring an additional payment method (e.g. debit, credit card etc.)

·         At the point of checkout, users are only able to see how much SNAP was applied to the order but are not shown how much the user must pay out of pocket. 

·         SNAP recipients have reported seeing significantly higher prices than in local grocery stores and very limited delivery drop-off times, or no delivery options available for their city or town.

·         In one case so far, InstaCart delivered to the wrong address and failed to reimburse SNAP benefits. (This case was reported to the FNS EBT retailers division for follow up). 
 

SURVEY tool:  In order to gauge people's personal experiences with online SNAP purchasing we have created a brief SURVEY HERE.  Please share widely with clients/partner organizations so we can begin tracking these access barriers and provide guidance. Please contact Lilydahn with questions or case examples: lstewart@mlri.org lstewart@mlri.org

 

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