Federal Lawmakers Aim to Extend Fee Ban on SNAP Purchases

U.S. representatives sponsoring Ensuring Fee-Free Benefit Transactions Act
SNAP benefit shelftag
Photograph: Shutterstock

The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) said it supports new federal legislation encouraging retailers to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—commonly called food stamps—by permanently prohibiting electronic benefits transfer (EBT) processing fees from being imposed.

Three U.S. representatives are sponsoring the Ensuring Fee-Free Benefit Transactions Act (H.R. 4103), which was introduced this month to ensure retailers accepting SNAP benefits don’t incur new EBT processing fees when a temporary measure banning the fees expires this year. The temporary ban took effect with the 2018 Farm Bill, according to U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management and Credit. She is joined by cosponsors Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-California).

“The EBT Act will permanently close a loophole that subjects retailers to processing fees on SNAP transactions. These extra costs to businesses could force many small, minority or family-owned independent retailers to stop accepting SNAP or raise their prices, both of which would be extremely harmful to my constituents in Northeast Ohio and people across the country,” Brown said in a statement.

The 2018 Farm Bill’s a five-year temporary ban on new EBT processing fees was set to expire this year, Brown said. Without the processing-fee prohibition, costs for retailers would rise. Retailers are required to provide their own equipment to participate in the SNAP program, according to information on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service’s website. The program is piloting a digital-payment app allowing recipients to pay with their phones instead of with a plastic EBT debit card they receive in the mail.

The USDA-funded SNAP program is administered at the state level, where eligibility is determined and benefits are issued to eligible households. States operate the program by determining eligibility and issuing benefits to eligible households.

The federal government’s Food and Nutrition Services division is encouraging convenience-store operators to apply to be qualified to accept SNAP benefits.

C-Store Criteria

Retailers must meet certain criteria, such as minimum stocking requirements or location in an area with high need due to limited access to food. The stocking requirements involve access to staple foods. Retailers are required to stock or sell a certain number of food items in the following categories:

  1. vegetables or fruits
  2. dairy products
  3. meat, poultry or fish
  4. breads or cereals 

More information on criteria for retailers is available on the USDA’s website.


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