Alaska has become the final state to join the USDA’s SNAP online purchasing, making the e-commerce payment capability available nationwide, the federal department announced Friday.
“Expanding the diversity and reach of SNAP online shopping helps advance our goal of modernizing SNAP and providing better access to healthy, safe, affordable foods,” Stacy Dean, USDA deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, said in a statement.
After the Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law in early that year, the federal government kicked off the SNAP online purchasing pilot mandated in that legislation in New York in 2019. The number of states approved by the USDA to participate in the pilot slowly grew until the start of the pandemic prompted an explosion of interest in making online grocery shopping more accessible to EBT participants.
Once states gained approval, grocers followed suit: Since March 2020, 208 additional retailers joined the SNAP online program, per the USDA.
By February 2021, 46 states and Washington, D.C., had received USDA approval for SNAP online purchasing. One year later, Louisiana became the 48th state to sign on, allowing Walmart to become the first retailer in the state to offer the capability, and in April 2022, Montana became the 49th state to join.
While it’s unclear why Alaska took longer than other states to get USDA approval for SNAP online purchasing, the state has recently been plagued by SNAP woes due to a months-long backlog with SNAP applications and payments, according to the Anchorage Daily News. State officials said the backlog was due to a staff shortage, a cyberattack and a boom in SNAP applicants, the paper reported.
Earlier this year, the National Grocers Association Foundation received a $5 million USDA grant that it said it will use to finance the creation of a technical assistance center assisting grocers with the steps to implement SNAP online payments and also support a mobile SNAP payments pilot.