Walmart and Amazon Pressured to End Delivery Charges for SNAP Recipients Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Trump administration continuing to encourage social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers are encouraging Amazon and Walmart to end delivery fees and minimum order requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Walmart CEO Doug McMillion, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Tuesday urged the companies to do away with fees, as they place an added strain on low-income families.

"The SNAP program provides a critical lifeline for food insecure families, and while Walmart and Amazon have taken the first step in allowing families who rely on SNAP to use their grocery delivery services, it’s crucial that they remove additional financial barriers," Gillibrand said, according to State of Politics. "No one should have to worry about affording to feed their families or have to risk their health to get groceries. Eliminating additional costs will make these important delivery services more widely accessible so that seniors and vulnerable New Yorkers can safely keep food on the table throughout this pandemic."

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to force people to remain indoors, there has been an uptick in people using pickup and online ordering grocery services. Those services, however, typically come a minimum purchase requirement or a fee for delivery, something that may force low-income families to resort to shopping in-store. The move to have Walmart and Amazon suspend their fees is also being backed by Hunger Free America, a New York City-based advocacy group.

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"Many leading corporations have already donated very generously to anti-hunger organizations across the country," Joel Berg, the group's CEO, said. "We hope they can also go the extra mile by waiving food delivery fees for the lowest-income Americans. Given that our organization just found in a survey that about four in ten American children are now suffering from hunger, struggling Americans need every bit of assistance they can get."

Currently, both Amazon and Walmart offer online grocery shopping for SNAP benefits through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot program. That program, however, is only available in a handful of states, including Alabama, Arizona, California, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Walmart also utilizes the program for its grocery pickup services. The company announced on Tuesday that it is working with the USDA to expand the pilot program to more states.