On January 5, 2021 the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services gave Food stamp recipients a temporary 15% increase in the amount of benefits they receive. This increase is part of the federal Emergency Coronavirus Relief Act of 2020. Also the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card can be used for online purchases at Aldi grocery stores.
The maximum benefit amount for households receiving food stamps will increase by 15% until June 30, 2021. After June 30, 2021 food stamp benefit amounts will return to their normal levels.
David Locklear, Deputy Director for Economic and Family Services said the following:
"We know that COVID has created additional hardships and increased food insecurity for children and families. We want to do everything possible to support North Carolinians who need help buying food, and increasing benefits for hundreds of thousands of families will be instrumental in meeting that need."
North Carolina Food stamp recipients participants will be able to purchase groceries online using their EBT cards at Aldi in North Carolina. This flexibility will allow participants to buy food while promoting social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The online advantage will also help families with transportation and mobility barriers.
Aldi becomes the fourth North Carolina EBT retailer, along with Walmart, Amazon and Carlie C's to be approved for online food stamp purchases. In May 2020 North Carolina was one of the first 10 states to implement online purchasing for food stamps, which will remain permanently in place beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Food stamp participants will be able to use their benefits to purchase eligible food items from online retailers but will not be able to use their benefits to pay for service or delivery charges. The participant will be required to pay for these charges with another form of payment, such as a debit or credit card.
Online shopping systems can provide several benefits to the citizens of North Carolina, such as:
- Promoting social distancing and self-isolation during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Limiting personal interactions for individuals at risk due to compromised health issues.
- Increasing access to healthy food for individuals with physical impairments, transportation issues or those living in food deserts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture must approve retailers who wish to participate in the food stamp online purchasing program. North Carolina encourages other EBT retailers to pursue USDA approval to become authorized online retailers.