Additional Thoughts (Apr 18, 2020) – Allow Virtual SNAP Benefit and EBT Card Use

Apr 18, 2020 | City Council

The following was originally published in my Apr 18, 2020 Newsletter in the “Additional Thoughts” section

I have added Item DC-4 ( to this week’s agenda with the hope of raising awareness about a problem that is impacting our most vulnerable residents during this pandemic. The problem: members of our community who receive food assistance (SNAP benefits) in the form of EBT cards are not permitted to place orders online or by phone. This situation had to be explained and described to me – I had no idea that such restrictions existed but increasingly they have become a barrier to accessing food under current circumstances. It turns out that the federal benefits of the SNAP program are administered at the state level; the rule prohibiting phone/online orders exists only because the state of Michigan imposes it. 

Under current stay-at-home orders and for very legitimate reasons, many families SHOULD be placing online or phone orders for food. For anyone without a car, safe transportation options are fewer now. For many families (e.g. households that include folks with compromised health), the safest way to get food is to have it delivered; the only way to facilitate delivery is online/phone orders. It is shocking to me that a state regulation puts our most vulnerable residents at a very specific disadvantage in accessing food and protecting themselves against COVID-19. 

Item DC-4 is a good example of the limits of our local City government, but it also prompts me to be grateful for the excellent representation we have at the state level. I’ve been able to convey concerns about this to our local State rep, Yousef Rabhi, who has already passed it on to Governor Whitmer. I am hopeful that this resolution raises more alarm/attention about the issue. It’s a big deal for a lot of families who need healthy food and groceries.