WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-09) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to request that New Jersey’s recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits be eligible to participate in a pilot program that allows the use of SNAP benefits for the purchase of SNAP eligible products online from approved online retailers. This will help protect the program’s recipients amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the state.

“The State of New Jersey was selected in April 2019 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as eligible to participate in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program though has not yet been formally admitted to the pilot program,” the lawmakers wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we request that USDA immediately allow New Jersey SNAP recipients to participate in this pilot program.”

SNAP recipients in Alabama, Iowa, New York, Oregon and Washington can use their benefits to purchase SNAP products online through the USDA’s pilot program. Nearly a year after New Jersey was made eligible to participate in the pilot program, the state has yet to be formally admitted.

“Allowing New Jerseyans to use their SNAP benefits for online purchases will protect them and all New Jerseyans as we continue to fight spread of the COVID-19 virus. We request that USDA make this authorization immediately in order to protect New Jersey SNAP recipients,” the lawmakers concluded.

SNAP is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program and currently benefits 705,000 New Jersey residents. The majority of SNAP beneficiaries in New Jersey are families with children, and more than 37% are families with members who are elderly or have disabilities.

The full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write to you regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the ability for recipients to use SNAP benefits to purchase SNAP eligible products online. As you are aware, there is currently a pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase SNAP products online in Alabama, Iowa, New York, Oregon and Washington. The State of New Jersey was selected in April 2019 by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as eligible to participate in the SNAP online purchasing pilot program though has not yet been formally admitted to the pilot program. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we request that USDA immediately allow New Jersey SNAP recipients to participate in this pilot program.

As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus has been classified as a pandemic. The State of New Jersey has declared a state of emergency and the Governor has issued an order to “shelter in place” that bans public gatherings and closes nonessential businesses. The order excepts trips made to grocery stores. Unfortunately, many SNAP recipients live in “food deserts” and may be many miles from the nearest grocery store so a trip that involves public transit or even an extended walk presents an increased risk. Furthermore, with schools closed in the state, parents are now full-time caregivers and a trip to a grocery store with or without a child becomes an extra burden and health risk. Thus, we believe that SNAP recipients should have the same opportunity as all New Jerseyans to be able to shop for groceries online and avoid unnecessary health risks.

Allowing New Jerseyans to use their SNAP benefits for online purchases will protect them and all New Jerseyans as we continue to fight spread of the COVID-19 virus. We request that USDA make this authorization immediately in order to protect New Jersey SNAP recipients. We look forward to your response no later than March 30, 2020.

Sincerely,

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