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15 States Deny Access to Safe Food Options for People with Disabilities

New Poll Shows 81% Voters Support Allowing SNAP Users to Order Groceries Online for Delivery

Washington, D.C., May 12 – Fifteen states have yet to ensure their high-risk residents can receive online grocery deliveries through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), leading to millions of people with and without disabilities risking exposure to COVID-19 or going hungry.

Nationwide, 11 million Americans with disabilities depend on SNAP, also called food stamps, to pay for groceries and provide for their families.

Since the start of the pandemic, 35 states have a taken a critical step to ensure that the people at the greatest risk from COVID-19 can safely order groceries online. In these states, beneficiaries who depend on SNAP to put food on the table can now order their groceries online and get it delivered to their homes.

However, 15 states have yet to act: Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.

Yet, according to a new poll conducted by Democracy Corps on behalf of the Center for Voter Information, 81 percent of voters say they favor allowing people who use SNAP to be able to order and pay for groceries and delivery online, so they don’t have to go into stores.

Map of the United States color coded by status of online SNAP. Green and allowed: AL, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, ID, IA, KY, MO, NC, NE, NM, NV, NY, OR, RI, TX, TN, VT, WA, WI, WV. Yellow and waiting on approval: AR, CT, DE, GA, HI, LA, MD, MA, MN, NJ, OK, PA, WY. Red and no announcements: AK, IN, IL, KS, ME, MI, MS, MT, NH, ND, OH, SC, SD, UT, VA.

Status of Online SNAP as of May 12

“During this pandemic, many people with disabilities are especially at risk because of underlying health conditions,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President and CEO of RespectAbility. “They need to be able to eat without having to worry about catching the coronavirus. Thus, we have reached out to every state on this issue. We are actively encouraging SNAP directors to quickly enable people with disabilities to use their benefits online. We congratulate those who are saving lives and encourage the remaining 15 states to do the same.”

RespectAbility is not alone in its efforts. Other disability rights groups have joined the effort, including the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) who have collaborated to release public advocacy letters to Congress, distribute advocacy materials to federal leaders, and educate state leaders about taking action on this life-or-death issue.

The SNAP program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2019, USDA launched a trial effort with six states to allow beneficiaries to use their benefits to pay for online grocery deliveries. At the beginning of the pandemic, an additional 13 states joined in the pilot.

In the past several weeks, 13 other states (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming) have applied. Now, those states are now waiting for the USDA to approve their application to join the pilot program.

“This is potentially lifesaving news for millions of people with disabilities who depend on food stamps to eat,” added Mizrahi. “We hope that the USDA and Secretary Sonny Perdue will expedite the necessary paperwork to help people who use SNAP stay safe from the pandemic. We are grateful for progress. But more must urgently be done before more lives are lost.”

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

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

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum
Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities, and managing editor of The RespectAbility Report, a publication at the intersection of disability and politics. Previously she was a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit. As an individual with an acquired invisible disability - Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy - she writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible. Behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, Appelbaum engages decision makers and creatives to improve the quality and number of authentic, diverse and inclusive presentations of people with disabilities on TV and film so audiences can see people with disabilities as vital contributors in America and around the world. She and her team have consulted on projects with Amazon, Disney/ABC Television, NBCUniversal, Netflix, and The Walt Disney Studios, among others. Appelbaum also enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by nurturing and connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, which was created to help entertainment professionals to be as inclusive of people with disabilities as possible, and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working behind the camera. To reach her, email LaurenA@RespectAbility.org.

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