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SNAP Gap Victory in MA IT Bond Bill today! Update on EBT online purchasing pilot

We continue to be amazed by the huge amount of important work the SNAP Coalition members are doing throughout the state to support low income families access to food – schools, food pantries, food banks, community organizations, health care workers. THANK YOU!  

SNAP Gap Victory - in the House IT Bond Bill!

Today, May 20th, the Massachusetts House approved legislation that includes $5M funding directing the Baker Administration to allow MassHealth and Medicare Savings Program applicants and recipients the option to apply for SNAP benefits at the same time. The language was included in the “IT Bond Bill” H.4708. 

This is HUGE!  As more individuals and families become unemployed, lose private health insurance, they will need both health care and nutrition benefits.  Representative Jay Livingstone spearheaded this effort, filing an amendment on Friday that included funding for the SNAP Gap, as well as language directing the state to provide mobile POS devices to retailers willing to offer curbside pick-up and pay options.  Rep Livingstone had 49 co-sponsors on his amendment. THANK YOU all for your rapid response to get co-sponsors - it worked!

PLEASE thank the House their hard work on this as the IT Bond Bill proceeds to the Senate, especially:

·         House Speaker Robert DeLeo   (617) 722-2500 email:  Twitter handle:  @SpeakerDeLeo 

·         House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michelwitz   (617) 722-2990  email:  Twitter handle:  @RepMichlewitz

·         House Rep Jay Livingstone, Lead  House Sponsor of SNAP gap campaign and IT Bond Bill amendment   (617) 722-2013  email:  Twitter handle: @jaylivingstone 

EBT Online purchasing update

USDA has just approved the Massachusetts EBT online pilot, announced in a press release today.  Once it rolls out, SNAP households are supposed to be able to online food purchases through three companies: Amazon, WalMart and possibly Price Rite.  Note: SNAP cannot be used to pay delivery fees or non-food items like paper goods, cleaning supplies.  The Massachusetts EBT vendor, Conduent, is still doing testing, so It may be another 4-6 weeks before it rolls out.  We know that many approved states are also struggling with propping up their EBT online purchasing pilots.

The EBT online pilot does not include other grocers and bodegas beyond the large companies listed. That’s in part b.c there are significant IT and security measures that USDA requires beyond the capacity of many local grocers. The House IT Bond Bill passed today includes a provision for the state to provide mobile POS devices for retailers willing to implement pre-ordering with curbside pickup (by car on on foot); and SNAP households can also authorize any trusted third person to food shop for them with their EBT card.  We urge you to have conversations with local retailers about ways they better can serve low income households during the pandemic.  

We also want to remind folks of the significant risks to SNAP households of giving their SNAP EBT card info and PIN over the phone.  Not only is it prohibited under USDA retailer rules, it exposes SNAP recipients to potential scamming. Unlike credit cards, there are no consumer protections if a grocer overcharges the SNAP account or continues to use EBT card info without permission. Caveat emptor!