Durbin, Duckworth Announce Their Provision Expanding Online SNAP Purchasing Included in American Rescue Plan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today announced the Senate-passed American Rescue Plan included provisions from their Expanding SNAP Options Act, which will provide $25 million for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online purchasing expansion and technology improvements. Their provision helps more retailers with the process of accepting online SNAP benefits, which increases shopping choices for families and addresses the rise in hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This funding opens the door for smaller community retailers to use online purchasing websites that let customers safely buy groceries during the pandemic. By increasing online purchasing options for SNAP recipients, more Illinoisans in need can safely put food on the table.  No family should go hungry during this difficult time,” said Durbin.

“As someone whose family depended on food stamps and reduced-price meals after my father lost his job when I was in high school, I know firsthand just how important access to affordable food can be,” said Duckworth. “Unfortunately, many Illinois SNAP recipients are shut out of being able to access online shopping options at many supermarkets and grocery stores, even during this deadly global pandemic—so I’m glad the American Rescue Plan includes Senator Durbin’s and my provision to expand opportunities for safely purchasing groceries online to more families.”

Online SNAP purchasing is currently limited to a very small number of approved retailers due to technological and financial barriers, and in many states the only options are Walmart and Amazon—leaving out smaller and independent grocers, local growers and farmers markets, and other specialty neighborhood retailers.  Not only do these challenges limit safe food options for SNAP recipients, it also restricts small farmers, independent retailers, and other food providers from the economic benefit of SNAP payments.  In May of 2020, the State of Illinois was approved to participate in the USDA’s Online SNAP Purchasing Pilot Program.  

Nearly 50 million Americans, including approximately two million in Illinois, rely on SNAP and that number has dramatically increased in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as more than 18 million Americans are now claiming some form of unemployment benefit.  With stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements, many Americans have turned to grocery store pick-up and delivery services to fulfill their food needs and avoid exposure to other people.  However, Americans relying on SNAP have faced barriers with online and delivery food services.