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Additional SNAP funding effective Jan 19

The Texas Health and Human Services agency announced additional funding for SNAP participants effective Jan. 19.  A 15% increase in SNAP benefits was a part of the recent COVID relief legislation passed by Congress.  The 15% is on top of the additional action of taking the SNAP funds to the maximum for family size.  The additional 15% will be added to Lone Star Cards between Jan. 19 and Jan. 22 depending on the County.  SNAP retailers will see increased business on the Lone Star Card. It is estimated the additional funds will be around $10 million.  In February, the additional 15% will continue but the distribution dates will be back to normal.

Message from NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara

NGA members: In my fifteen years working for NGA, I've encountered quite a few crazy events at the US Capitol. I've had to shelter in place inside the complex during a police shooting, narrowly avoided a landing by a crazy man in a small airplane on the west front lawn of the Capitol, and have navigated thousands of protesters exercising their First Amendment right. I have never seen anything like the events that are taking place at our Capitol building today. 

To see protesters, some armed, storm the chambers of the US Senate and the US House of Representatives, should send chills down the spines of all Americans. These actions threaten our democracy. Part of what makes this country great is even with all of the security threats that America faces, we are still able to petition our elected officials face to face at the Capitol. 

I'm afraid today's actions may make that more difficult in the future and that is a loss for all of us. In a non-pandemic world NGA's government relations staff would likely have been on Capitol Hill, representing your interest, so I'm glad, for once, that COVID has kept our staff safe. I hope you will join me in saying a prayer for our nation this evening that we can tone down the rhetoric and come together as Americans. 

Tomorrow will be a better day in this wonderful country that we are blessed to call home. 



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Federal Adjustments to Civil Money Penalties

Dear WIC Vendor Community,

Recent changes to the Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Inflation Adjustment for 2020 have resulted in an increase to CMPs for the Texas WIC Program.

Effective January 1, 2021, state policy WV: 1.0 will reflect the increased maximum CMP amounts the state agency will collect from a vendor in lieu of disqualification.

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Texas WIC approves new cereals

Dear Texas WIC Vendor Community,

The Texas WIC program is pleased to announce four new breakfast cereals will be available for WIC participants to purchase, beginning January 4, 2021.

 

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HEB Now Accepting SNAP EBT for Curbside

H-E-B is now accepting SNAP EBT payments for its Curbside and Home Delivery orders directly on the My H-E-B mobile app and heb.com. At all H-E-B Curbside and Home Delivery locations, customers can now use SNAP EBT to digitally pay for their orders for pick-up at the store or delivery to their homes.

To use the service, customers must create an account on the My H-E-B app or heb.com. During sign up, they will enter their SNAP EBT and other payment info. Once registration is complete, they can place an order and simply choose SNAP EBT during check out where they also will be required to enter their PIN. A credit, debit or gift card will need to be used to pay for items and fees not SNAP EBT eligible.

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Tom Thumb Opens Deep Ellum Location

The very first customers poured into the store at 6am on Friday, November 6th.

(Dallas, TX) November 6th, 2020 — The shelves are stocked, Starbucks coffee is brewed, delicious baked goods are ready to taste, and the last apple has been tucked into place. Tom Thumb, DFWs grocer since 1948, has opened its newest location in Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas! The store is located at 2727 Live Oak St, Dallas, TX.

The 56,000 square-foot store is designed to delight and engage today’s shoppers in an urban setting. The store is tailored to the Deep Ellum customer and has so much to offer that shoppers will be delighted every time they visit! The store team, just over 300 associates, are ready to serve customers with the incredible customer service Tom Thumb is known for.

“Tom Thumb is proud to continue to serve North Texas with our newest store in Dallas and we are excited to be part of Deep Ellum,” said Wayne Denningham, President of Albertsons Companies Southern Division, which includes Tom Thumb. “Customers will find the new store has a wealth of amenities, as well as the value, quality, convenience, and excellence in customer service that is synonymous with Tom Thumb,” Denningham said.

Tom Thumb has always prioritized community connection in every neighborhood they serve and Deep Ellum is no exception. The Tom Thumb Foundation has donated $10,000.00 to the Baylor Scott and White Employee 1st Emergency Fund which directly benefits front line medical workers in need of help due to COVID-19. From one Front Line to another, we are proud to help our Baylor Medical Center Neighbors.

Tom Thumb is proud to share THIS VIDEO “SNEAK PEAK” footage highlighting some of the amenities offered throughout the store: 

Click here to read full PRESS RELEASE

Texas WIC Policy Revisions

Policy Revisions/Summary of Changes for WV: 03.0, 05.0, & 08.0

Dear WIC Vendor Community,

Texas WIC has revised the following vendor policies effective on November 1, 2020:

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The Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Shop at Grocery Stores

Grocery stores have really experienced a year like no other.

Stay at home orders put a lot of pressure on the supply chain and the pandemic has formed some new buying habits in shoppers that might be around to stay.

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H-E-B Continues To Aid MD Anderson Cancer Center Through Fundraisers

H-E-B is once again joining with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in an effort to end cancer in Texas, across the nation and around the world. Through Tuesday, Sept. 8, H-E-B customers can make $1, $3 and $5 donations during H-E-B’s fifth annual statewide fundraising campaign. Since the launch in 2016, H-E-B has raised more than $1 million in support of cancer research and patient programs at MD Anderson.

Donations can be made during checkout at H-E-B stores throughout Texas. New this year, customers also can donate at self-checkout registers and online or via the My H-E-B mobile app.

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Millennials are resurrecting items in stores

Millennials and their spending habits have been accused of killing everything from the idea of the starter home to mayonnaise. 

There are many reasons millennials' preferences differ from those of past generations — for the most part, they entered the job market during the last recession, and many have student loan debt to contend with. 

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New WIC Approved Foods for FY21

New WIC Approved Foods for FY21

Dear WIC Vendor Community,

Starting October 1, 2020, the Texas WIC Program will add new WIC approved foods to and remove some WIC approved foods from the Authorized Product List (APL).

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Texas WIC Vendor Quarterly Webinar

Texas WIC Vendor Quarterly Webinar

Dear WIC Vendor Community,

Join us for the Texas WIC Vendor Quarterly Webinar for the latest updates.

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Extension for Substitutions to WIC Approved Foods

To support our WIC community, Texas WIC is again extending the temporary lifting of restrictions for some food categories. The flexibilities, which were previously extended through June 30, 2020, have now been extended through July 31, 2020. These flexibilities should be utilized only when prescribed food items are unavailable. The temporary WIC food substitutions are listed below.

Temporary Flexibilities Extended Through July 31, 2020

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SNAP Online Pilot Program

Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas Added to Innovative SNAP Online Pilot Program
USDA is expanding access to innovative online food purchase program

(Washington, D.C., April 21, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced approval of requests from Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas to provide online purchasing of food to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households. This approval will allow the States to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date to be announced at a later time. Kentucky’s SNAP participation is over 500,000 individuals, more than 225,000 households, and totals nearly $750 million annually in federal funding. Missouri’s SNAP participation is nearly 650,000 individuals, nearly 300,000 households, and totals nearly $1 billion annually in federal funding. Texas’ SNAP participation is over 3.2 million individuals, more than 1.4 million households, and totals nearly $5 billion annually in federal funding. This announcement further demonstrates President Trump’s whole of America approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring those affected are fed.

Background:
The SNAP online pilot is currently operational in Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Washington State. The authorized retailers working with all pilot states are Amazon and Walmart, while Wrights Market and ShopRite are working with Alabama and New York respectively. USDA previously announced Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, and West Virginia would also be joining. With these 16 states, more than half of all households receiving SNAP will have access to online purchasing.

Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is receiving interest to expand the SNAP online pilot program, the responsibility is on state agencies, their third-party processor, and any retailers who wish to participate. To ease the process, FNS put together a simplified template for states who wish to enter the online pilot which is provided as an attachment to this letter.

USDA continues to provide significant technical assistance to interested states to ensure that plans are thorough and appropriate preliminary testing is conducted. If not done properly and judiciously, there is a risk to the State’s entire benefit system. Each State, its EBT processor and retailers present their own mix of challenges so FNS is providing customer service based on each of their specific needs.

FNS will continue to work with interested states in advancing their participation in this pilot. Until States are prepared to operate the pilot, USDA recommends States utilize other options that retailers may already provide, such as Pay at Pick-up (also known as “Click and Collect”), where SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pick-up. Grocery pickup is already an option that these retailers offer beyond SNAP so they are already thinking through how they can provide a safe environment to do so with the growing concerns around social distancing.

During these challenging times, FNS is working hand-in-hand with state program leadership, to provide support and guidance to adapt to the challenges of this public health emergency. USDA intends to use available program flexibilities and contingencies to continue to serve our program participants. For up to date information and to learn more about flexibilities being used in FNS nutrition programs, please visit the FNS website.

Majority of Americans Still Braving Physical Retailers

As Americans begin to adapt to social distancing measures as a new normal amidst the Covid-19 crisis, the majority are still visiting physical retailers to pick up their essentials. In fact, consumers report grocery and big box stores as some of their top in-store shopping destinations today (72 percent and 69 percent of respondents, respectively), according to a new survey by shopping rewards app, Shopkick.

Shopkick surveyed more than 26,000 consumers across the country between March 31 and April 6 to gain insights into consumers’ in-store shopping behaviors in light of the current crisis.

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WIC/SNAP: EBT Outage Notifications

As part of continuous systems updates, the EBT-4 vendor may have planned outages.  Retailers can sign up to receive email or text message notifications about Texas EBT-4 planned outages at: 

https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/TXHHSC/subscriber/new

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Texas WIC Vendor Monitoring Suspended

Dear Texas WIC Vendor Community,

Due to the flexibilities around monitoring permitted by USDA, Texas WIC Vendor Management and Operations Unit (VMO) is immediately suspending the following activities:

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Coronavirus WIC Update

    The Texas Health & Human Services Commission will be publishing a Vendor News Flash in the near future regarding WIC purchases during this critical time due to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

-Suspending LEB requirements.  Retailers may sell any items in the LEB category that are on the APL and on the customers’ prescription without fear of an LEB violation (the 85% policy).

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USDA Office of Food Safety Statement to Industry

Statement to Industry
March 16, 2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is rising to meet the challenges associated with the new coronavirus disease, Covid-19. As leaders of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Agricultural Marketing Service, we can assure you that the agencies are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our employees while still providing the timely delivery of services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply from farm to fork.

These agencies are prepared to utilize their authority and all administrative means and flexibilities to address staffing considerations. Field personnel will be working closely with establishment management and state and local health authorities to handle situations as they arise in your community. As always, communication between industry and government will be key. We are all relying on early and frequent communication with one another to overcome challenges as they arise.

In this time of much uncertainty, we know that many of you have questions about how the department will continue to ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available. We have all seen how consumers have reacted to the evolving coronavirus situation and how important access to food is to a sense of safety and wellbeing. It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products.

As we come together as a country to address this public health threat, know that USDA remains committed to working closely with industry to fulfill our mission of ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply and protecting agricultural health.

Dr. Mindy Brashears
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

Greg Ibach
USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs
Click here for original article from USDA.gov

Coronavirus Update Dashboard Resource

As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to grow, we realize a lot of questions arise particularly about the grocery industry and retail industry as the public tries to secure supplies for themselves and their families in preparation for social distancing, closures, and anything else that might arise. Due to the rapidly changing information we have developed a Coronavirus Update Dashboard resource for everyone who wants to have a go-to place for up-to-date information from each TRA member commenting and making statements on the outbreak. We have also included the social media feeds from our national partners NRF and NGA, and other resources like the CDC and The Hill to have a good overview on any statements that may affect the Texas retail industry as these events develop. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us. Be sure to check out the Coronavirus Update Dashboard periodically for direct information from each source.