Luján, Welch Introduce Legislation to Support Local Grocers and Protect SNAP Access

Washington, D.C. –  U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced the Ensuring Fee-Free Benefits Transactions Act to permanently protect retailers from processing fees and modernization costs beyond the normal costs of business. From the inception of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), stores have been protected from transaction fees that would make it harder for them to accept SNAP benefits. However, the 2014 Farm Bill text inadvertently left retailers open to new processing fees. In 2018, this loophole was temporarily closed until 2023.

The EBT Act addresses this loophole in the following ways:

  • Permanently prohibits EBT processing fees.
  • Protects retailers from modernization costs above and beyond normal commercial costs.
  • Ensures that state EBT contracts require fraud protection to prevent skimming and cover the cost of supporting the EBT payment infrastructure.
  • Requires state agencies to review payment technology during each new contracting period and update the technology to reflect commercial standards.

“New Mexico’s community and family-owned grocers are critical to our state, providing families with a reliable source of healthy and affordable food. These retailers make great strides to be accessible to every New Mexican, including those who rely on SNAP,” said Luján. “The EBT Act will permanently close a loophole that would allow retailers to be charged a processing fee on SNAP transactions. In New Mexico, nearly 1 in 4 individuals rely on SNAP benefits to keep food on the table. This legislation ensures grocery stores are able to continue accepting these benefits that help address food insecurity and hunger in our state.”

“EBT is a lifesaving tool for families who are struggling to put food on the table. But processing fees for EBT transactions would make it more expensive for businesses to accept EBT and make it harder for families to access these critical benefits. That’s unacceptable. I’m proud to join Senator Luján to introduce this important bill to protect families’ ability to use their EBT cards and make it easier for businesses to serve families in their communities,” said Senator Welch.

“Independent community grocers play a vital role in ensuring access to healthy and affordable food for families in need through SNAP. These retailers make substantial investments in software, equipment, and training to facilitate SNAP benefits for their communities,” said National Grocers Association President & CEO Greg Ferrara. “NGA is proud to work alongside Senator Luján to secure a permanent solution that eliminates processing fees on SNAP transactions. This step is crucial in avoiding potential restrictions on SNAP access for beneficiaries and mitigating adverse effects on the indispensable retailers who contribute to the program’s success.” 

“At John Brooks Supermarket, we believe in delivering an unparalleled shopping experience each and every day. Our unwavering dedication to the communities we serve has led to our expansion from a single store to four locations across New Mexico. We are dedicated to ensuring exceptional freshness, a diverse product assortment, and unbeatable value for all shoppers, regardless of their participation in SNAP. Imposing additional processing fees on retailers through the SNAP program would hamper our ability to fulfill our commitment of serving our local communities to the fullest,” said Kathy Dominguezof John Brooks Supermarket, a five store operator located in New Mexico.

“At Lowe’s Markets, our guiding principle has always been to prioritize the well-being of the community, our dedicated Teammates, and their families. We recognize the important role we play in feeding and nourishing our communities, and the significance of meeting the needs of all our customers, whether they are SNAP participants or not. Imposing processing fees or other related costs on SNAP transactions would hinder our capability to fully honor our commitment of serving our local communities to the best of our abilities,” said Lowe’s Markets Director of Marketing Matt Corbin.

“FMI applauds Senators Luján and Welch for their leadership in introducing the EBT Act to protect SNAP participants’ access to food retailers in New Mexico, Vermont, and across the country. Permanently prohibiting processing and other fees from being assessed on SNAP authorized grocers will shelter these retailers and their customers from a potential unfair burden of fees, and protect the integrity of this safety net program. FMI is grateful to work with Senators Luján and Welch on enacting the EBT Act as part of the Farm Bill reauthorization,” said Jennifer Hatcher, Chief Public Policy Officer, FMI – The Food Industry Association.



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