Governors of several states are asking the federal government to loosen the rules for food assistance to allow recipients to buy groceries online, have them delivered and make other accommodations.
California, Pennsylvania, Arizona and other states are asking for various exemptions in the rules governing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), popularly known as food stamps, in light of the crisis brought about by the coronavirus situation. Among the requests are:
- Letting SNAP recipients order groceries online;
- Allowing them to use Instacart and other delivery services;
- Waiving the in-person interview requirement for new SNAP applicants;
- Allowing SNAP to pay for cooked or otherwise prepared food;
- Increasing the amount of groceries that can be bought at one time.
Governors and others say the issue is vital because many SNAP recipients are elderly or have health conditions that leave them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, widespread business closures are throwing millions out of work, increasing the need for food assistance.
The issue is complicated by the Trump administration’s attempt to stop states from waiving work requirements for able-bodied adults. The USDA’s attempt to do so, which would have thrown an estimated 700,000 individuals off the SNAP rolls, was blocked by a federal judge. The USDA vowed to appeal, but is putting the issue on hold, and the federal relief package passed by Congress contains a blanket waiver of the work requirement.