AUSTIN – Two days after receiving a green light from federal agriculture officials, Texas’ social services and health care mega-agency on Thursday said food stamp recipients would be allowed to use their benefits to order groceries online and have them delivered to their door.
The pilot program’s expected start date is May 18, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission said in a release.
But Texas is still waiting for approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service on its recent request for people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to be permitted to use their Lone Star Cards to purchase carryout or delivered food from restaurants.
“We have not received an update from [the federal agency] on the status of the request to use SNAP for takeout/restaurant food,” commission spokeswoman Christine Mann said in an email.
Food stamps are federal benefits, administered by the state. They provide food assistance to about 1.4 million eligible low-income households in Texas, with annual federal benefits worth nearly $5 billion.
“By allowing SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online throughout the COVID-19 response, we are removing barriers to healthy and nutritious food for many families in Texas,” said Gov. Greg Abbott said in a written statement.
On Tuesday, Abbott had announced the federal approval at a coronavirus news briefing.
The SNAP online pilot is currently operating in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington state, according to a federal Food and Nutrition Service release issued Tuesday. It said Kentucky and Missouri were approved along with Texas, and named six other states, including California, that would be added soon.
“With these 16 states, more than half of all households receiving SNAP will have access to online purchasing,” the federal agency said.
“The authorized retailers working with all pilot states are Amazon and Walmart, while Wrights Market and ShopRite are working with Alabama and New York respectively,” it said.
A federal website, though, had not as of Thursday afternoon been updated to say which grocery chains in Texas would be participating.
Mann, the commission spokeswoman, said as of the May 18 start, only Amazon and Walmart would be providing the service.
“Retailers have to apply through [the federal agency] and get approval and then modify their technology to participate,” she explained.
In earlier responses to the COVID-19 outbreak, Texas let all food stamp recipients receive the maximum eligible allotment and temporarily waived renewals that require checks of continued eligibility.