As customers in Western New York adjust to the plastic bag ban, low-income customers have found that forgetting to bring their own bags into stores can be a costly mistake.
It was originally reported that customers who receive SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition benefits would be exempt from the five-cent fee charged for paper bags at most stores.
And that is the case: SNAP and WIC customers are exempt – but only in municipalities where the the bag fee is required by local law.
If a store voluntarily initiates a bag fee in a municipality where the fee is not required by law, government food benefit recipients will not be exempt from the charge. And there are no municipalities in Western New York that have instituted a mandatory bag fee.
So, in Western New York, it's up to each individual store whether they charge extra for a paper bag, and whether they'll waive that extra charge for low-income customers.