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Connecticut Moves to Enable People with Disabilities to Eat but Urgent Action by USDA Still Needed

Act Now to Enable People Who Use SNAP (Food Stamps) to Get Food Delivered

Connecticut state flag. Text: Online SNAP in ConnecticutHartford, Connecticut, May 7 – Connecticut’s leaders have taken a critical step to ensuring that the people at the greatest risk from the COVID-19 pandemic and who rely on SNAP benefits can safely order groceries online. The disability nonprofit RespectAbility congratulates leaders in the Nutmeg State for applying for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits for nline grocery delivery via Walmart, Amazon online (including Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh), and certain ShopRite stores.

“This is potentially lifesaving news for the approximately 105,000 Connecticut residents with disabilities who depend on food stamps to put food on the table,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility. “We hope the USDA and Secretary Sonny Perdue will expedite the necessary paperwork and help people in Connecticut stay safe from the pandemic.”

The CDC reports that approximately 90 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have underlying conditions. People with disabilities and other historically marginalized communities are the groups most likely to have these conditions and are among the most at risk for severe complications from the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, the USDA launched an online SNAP purchasing pilot in partnership with the state governments of Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington State. This pilot allowed people with disabilities who depend on SNAP benefits to order food online and have it delivered to their homes.

In response to the current crisis, the USDA now has allowed Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia to join the online program for their SNAP beneficiaries.

However, critical advocacy still is needed in many other states to ensure that people with disabilities and others do not have to risk their lives to put food on the table.

“Many people with disabilities who use SNAP are especially at risk during this pandemic because of underlying conditions. They need to be able to eat without risking exposure to the virus. Thus, we have reached out to every state on this issue, encouraging SNAP directors to quickly enable people with disabilities to use SNAP for online groceries and delivery,” Mizrahi added. “We are thrilled that Gov. Ned Lamont and other leaders in Connecticut will now join other states who have taken action on this issue. We also know that multiple states are awaiting similar approval and we hope it will come swiftly. We are grateful for progress. But more must urgently be done before more lives are lost.”

The Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS), administering agency for SNAP, reports that it is working with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and the state’s EBT vendor toward implementation of SNAP online purchasing.  “We are encouraged by our federal partners and, assuming all technical systems are go, there’s a target date of May 29 for implementation,” said DSS spokesperson David Dearborn.  “Once launched, we will be looking to recruit additional food retailers into online access for SNAP enrollees.”

The SNAP logo displayed on a computer monitor. Text: #SNAPDeliverySavesLivesTo take action on this issue, RespectAbility has launched a new campaign, #SNAPDeliverySavesLives, and tracks states as they apply for these USDA waivers at: https://www.respectability.org/SNAP.

For more information about RespectAbility’s advocacy work and their COVID-19 resources, please visit: https://www.respectability.org/covid-19.

For more information and details about the SNAP online purchasing pilot, please visit the USDA’s website: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/online-purchasing-pilot.

Meet the Author

Philip Pauli

Philip Kahn-Pauli is the Policy and Practices Director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities. He works with state leaders to develop solutions for youth with disabilities, support job seekers with disabilities and open pathways into the workforce. To reach him, email [email protected]

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