Senate committee passes bill to allow vendors at V.I. farmers markets to accept food stamps


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ST. THOMAS - Members of the Senate Economic Development, Agriculture and Planning Committee passed a bill Tuesday to allow vendors at the territory's farmers markets to take food stamps.

The bill, sponsored by Senators Clarence Payne III and Janette Millin Young, directs the V.I. Human Services Department to come up with rules and regulations governing the "SNAP Fresh Food Access and Farmers' Market Technology Improvement Program."

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - also known as SNAP and formerly known as the food stamp program - currently provides assistance to more than 32,000 people in the territory, according to the bill.

Local farmers must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Services department to accept payment using the program's electronic benefits transfer cards. Farmers must have the technology and equipment to process the cards.

The legislation makes reference to an existing law requiring the territory's farmers markets to have free wireless Internet access available. Access to the Internet would facilitate the equipment needed to accept the SNAP benefits, according to the bill's sponsors.

The legislation creates a fund to collect money to buy or rent the equipment needed to process the payments.

While the measure currently is unfunded, Sen. Sammuel Sanes said a funding source has been identified and an amendment will be added to the bill in the Rules and Judiciary Committee.

The bill passed unanimously and will be forwarded to the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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