May 18, 2019
Illinois Food Stamp Recipients Can Use Benefits At Select Restaurants If Legislation Passes

Illinois may become the next state to join the federal Restaurant Meals Program (RMP), as lawmakers recently approved legislation that permits Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to use EBT cards to eat at select restaurants.

On Friday, the state senate approved the measure by a landslide vote of 48 to 1. The House previously approved the legislation back in March by a vote of 75 to 18.

The measure will now move to the governor. If approved by the governor, the bill would not go into effect until January of next year, CBS Chicago confirms.

If the measure is approved, restaurants participating in the program would be required to offer low-cost options for SNAP recipients. Food stamps could be used to purchase select items on the menu at participating restaurants only. Food establishments, meanwhile, are not permitted to take additional SNAP payments for tips. Restaurants can apply to be a part of the program after they incorporate affordable options on their menu.

According to a blog called Low Income Relief, there are a few other states participating in the Restaurant Meals Program, including Arizona and California. Florida only participates on a limited basis, as only homeless residents of Alachua county can take advantage of the program. The state of Iowa was once part of the program but pulled out of it back in 2001. Michigan also once took part in the RMP.

While there aren't many states actively involved in the RMP, the blog goes on to clarify most states offer an assortment of other discounts that food stamp recipients can take advantage of. These include everything from museum discounts to free college courses. Some states even offer the opportunity to double up to a certain amount of food stamps by making purchases at local farmer's markets.

Papa Murphy's is a rare exception to the rule that allows EBT as a form of payment in all states within the U.S. because the take-and-bake option prevents it from falling into the "restaurant" category. This allows customers to take the pizzas home and cook them on their own.

The restaurants that take part in the RMP vary from one state to the next, but here are some that are known to join the program across several participating states.

  • Denny's
  • Domino's Pizza
  • Firehouse Subs
  • Jack in the Box
  • KFC
  • Subway
  • Taco Bell
  • Dairy Queen
Currently, Illinois is not a part of the Restaurant Meals Program. That means food stamp recipients are only allowed to purchase groceries at retail stores. Being added to this program list would make it possible for the recipients to purchase hot, cooked meals as well.