USDA will test mobile contactless payments for SNAP in five states

Photo (c) Guido Mieth - Getty Images

The agency hopes to make it easier – and safer – for consumers to get healthy food for their families

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it will roll out mobile contactless payment options for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients in five states: Massachusetts, Illinois, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Missouri. 

“Today’s announcement represents another step forward for the future of SNAP and the many ways our programs are embracing modern and innovative ideas to improve nutrition security,” said Stacy Dean, USDA undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services. “Digital wallets are changing the way we pay for everything, including groceries. 

“We want to ensure SNAP leverages the latest technology to improve access to benefits, reduce fraud, and provide a better overall experience for the families we serve.” 

Modernizing the process

One of the primary goals of enabling mobile payments for SNAP is to update its technological presence. For the states that are getting involved with this new payment option, this is yet another way that these services are innovating for consumers. 

“Over the past few years, we’ve focused on ways of using technology to make SNAP applications and purchases easier for the families we serve, including through text message reminders, a mobile app for managing benefits, online SNAP purchasing, and even a virtual D-SNAP process following disasters,” said Terri Ricks, Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services secretary. “The goal of the Mobile Payment Pilot is to build on these efforts by making purchases more convenient and reducing the time involved in receiving access to benefits.” 

In addition, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has taken steps to make SNAP benefits more technologically advanced, including online shopping platforms for both major grocery stores and local and rural grocers. 

Shoppers still have a choice

The USDA explained that there is a lot going on behind the scenes to make this new payment option possible. The agency has to work closely with the states involved, as well as digital wallet providers, EBT processors, and stores, to make this happen. 

Consumers in these five states can expect to see the mobile SNAP payment option rolled out within the next few years. However, it will still be up to participants whether or not they want to pay with their physical EBT card or their digital wallet. Additionally, individual retailers will also have the choice of whether or not they’ll transition to accepting digital payments. 

Rather than carrying a SNAP card, which can be susceptible to various scams and fraud attempts, the mobile option will help keep payments secure and ensure that consumers are able to get healthy food for themselves and their families. 

“Our Administration is committed to centering equity in all that we do,” said Massachusetts Governor Maura Healy. “Allowing households to buy groceries using SNAP benefits through their mobile device not only creates a more dignified and secure checkout experience but also provides low-income families access to the same purchasing technologies as other customers.” 

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