Some Philly corner store owners won’t accept SNAP because of new fees

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Budget cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, means stores that accept the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards will begin paying for debit machines and transaction fees Sunday.  Some smaller stores in Philadelphia say they will stop taking EBT rather than pay the new costs.

About 23 million households are enrolled in SNAP nationwide. For Philadelphians who lack access to regular grocery stores, the city’s 1,500 plus corner stores fill the gap.

Clara Olivares, owner of Olivares market in the Point Breeze neighborhood says she’s unhappy about the fees, but will pay.

“The thing is, before, you weren’t paying nothing and now you’re going to pay $75 a month. That’s a lot of money,” she said. [But] 25 percent of my business is EBT so it would be dangerous for me to cut it out.”

For Tom Lees, owner of Pat’s Place corner store in Roxborough, the fees combined with a changing neighborhood lead him to stop accepting EBT.

“The people that are using the EBT, they have left my area,” he said. “I mostly kept it as a service to the elderly residents. I never had a problem with EBT. But now the fees are too much, I’m not making a high enough profit on EBT to cover the expenses.”

His remaining elderly customers must now shop elsewhere.

“Mrs. Habner will probably get her daughter to take her EBT card to the store and buy what she needs. Barbara will probably take the 35 up to the Acme. And Mr. Miller will probably wait till he shops with his son once a month and bulk buy. That’s what will probably happen,” said Lees.

The new policy affects over 220,000 retailers nationwide, but some organizations will remain exempt from fees. They include farmers’ markets, military commissaries, non-profit organizations, group living arrangements, treatment centers, and prepared meal services.  

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