Coronavirus in Mass.
Now, dozens of lawmakers are asking for a new one: Curbside pickup.
In a letter emailed to Baker on Thursday, six state senators and 36 state representatives urged Baker to issue an order requiring grocery stores that offer online ordering and delivery to allow customers to pickup and pay for food outside the store.
“We believe customer preordering (online, fax, or phone) with curbside payment and pickup ought to be offered and encouraged,” said the letter, which was written by state Reps. Jay Livingstone and Mindy Domb, two Democrats from Boston and Amherst, respectively.
The request — which was first reported Thursday by the State House News Service — comes after Baker ordered supermarkets to limit the number of people inside their store to 40 percent occupancy to address crowding concerns (many stores had already self-imposed lower limits). The lawmakers said that requiring grocers to offer curbside pickup would further the goal to “protect the public health of grocery store workers and customers.”
Livingstone also noted that the EBT cards used by Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients can only be swiped in person, meaning that people on food stamps can’t order groceries for delivery. And while the Baker administration recently requested to join a multi-state pilot program allowing online SNAP payments, the program is mostly limited to Amazon and Walmart.
However, amid reports that grocery delivery services have been strained beyond capacity resulting in weeks-long delays, lawmakers said requiring curbside pickup would benefit everyone. It would also require grocery stores to have “mobile cash registers available in the pickup area” to accept payments for pre-ordered food.
“Curbside payment would benefit all households (those with and without EBT cards), especially as it becomes more difficult for stores to offer delivery services, to participate equally with other customers in a safe manner to procure groceries without the need to enter the store,” the letter said.
They also noted that some large retail stores, like Walmart, already offer curbside pickup. And in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, some smaller grocers, restaurants, and breweries have also begun offering the service.
The order would not apply to several grocery chains in Massachusetts, such as Market Basket and Trader Joe’s, that do not have their own online ordering or delivery service.
However, it would appear to have an impact of the state’s biggest supermarket chain, Stop & Shop.
The Quincy-based grocery chain has continued to offer delivery, but paused its curbside pickup service on March 14 due to “unprecedented demand as well as product shortages in some area” in the wake of the outbreak.
“Suspending this service was a very difficult decision, but we are focusing on stocking shelves in our stores & other key priorities to better meet the needs of all customers,” says a FAQ page on the Stop & Shop website.