Missourians who use food stamps will be able to order groceries online soon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a waiver request submitted by the Missouri Department of Social Services on Monday to allow people to pay for online grocery delivery with SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps.

The USDA sent Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, an email confirming that Missouri, Kentucky and Texas’s requests to join the program have been approved, along with Maryland and New Jersey.

The state’s Department of Social Services predicts benefits will probably roll out in a month, Kendrick said.

"This is a big program to get up to get moving at the state level," he said, adding they're cautiously optimistic it may be available sooner than that.

Kendrick started advocating for the state to join the program a few weeks ago when a constituent with a disability, who typically depends on her high-risk mother to help her shop at the grocery store, sent him an email frustrated she couldn’t purchase groceries online with food stamps.

The state submitted a waiver to join the pilot program Friday.

States have begun to expedite planning to allow online purchasing, according to the USDA. Since last week, Florida has been added to the program, and Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Idaho and North Carolina have been approved to start offering the online option in the next month.

The 2014 Farm Bill-mandated program launched in New York in April 2019. Washington state was approved in January, and since the start of the pandemic, Alabama, Iowa, Oregon and Nebraska have been approved to the program.

Amazon and Walmart have agreed to be retailers for online purchases in the state, and Missouri has requested to include additional grocery options.

In most of the states already part of the program, Amazon and Walmart are the only options for SNAP online purchases, along with Wright’s Markets in Alabama and ShopRite in New York.

Kendrick said he thinks Walmart and Amazon will be the only stores offered for now.

"Right now, I think there are so many people wanting to and trying to make a difference and when you could see some positive results from actions ... it just reinforces that desire to do more good work," Kendrick said.

At this point, families and individuals who use food stamps, including many in high-risk categories for the coronavirus, haven’t had the option to order groceries online, forcing them to go to the store and risk exposure to the virus.

Some 1,400 Boone County residents applied for food stamps last month, up 54% from 924 in February, according to Department of Social Services data.

Missouri received 61.2% more food stamp applications in March compared to March 2019. In March this year, the Department of Social Services received 61,164 applications, a 64% increase from February.

In 2019, around 330,000 Missouri households received food stamps overall.

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