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Giving Compass' Take:
• At Urban Institute, Rayanne Hawkins, Heather Hahn, and Alena Stern pinpoint how marginalized communities would benefit from making SNAP benefits accessible online during COVID-19.
• How has COVID exposed hunger issues in the United States and abroad? How can you support making SNAP benefits accessible online? How else can you help alleviate food struggles in marginalized communities?
Even as state governments issued shelter-in-place orders, millions of Americans needed to leave their houses, putting themselves at risk of COVID-19, to purchase groceries using their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits because program rules mean most people can’t use their benefits online. Fourteen percent of SNAP users are older than 65, and 42 percent are people of color, groups already experiencing disproportionate effects of COVID-19. Although 37 states have adopted a pilot allowing people to use their SNAP benefits online during the COVID 19 pandemic, 13 states still lack this option, highlighting the need for SNAP to move more quickly to adopt payment and delivery methods available to other consumers.
A new Urban Institute report explores how to incorporate principles of equity and inclusion in the adoption of new technologies for SNAP benefit delivery. The report defines two overarching principles: SNAP beneficiaries should have access to the same customer experience as consumers using other forms of payment, and SNAP beneficiaries should be able to access food without stigma, regardless of where they live.
Although the rapid expansion of the online purchasing pilot has allowed many SNAP beneficiaries to socially distance and shelter in place, expansion to all states would provide SNAP consumers with access to online food purchases other consumers already have. The addition of retailers would also help people in rural areas access food as easily as those served by retailers delivering groceries through the pilot.
With an expansion of the online purchasing pilot, policymakers can increase equity and inclusivity in SNAP benefits delivery while ensuring SNAP users’ health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read the full article about making SNAP benefits accessible online by Rayanne Hawkins, Heather Hahn, and Alena Stern at Urban Institute.