Food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a federal program that helps millions of Americans afford their groceries. Through providing temporary benefits to people in need, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the largest program working to fight hunger in America. SNAP adapts quickly to changes in poverty and unemployment, making it a successful program in providing assistance and supporting the American economy.
Not only does SNAP offer benefits to those who need it, but SNAP also supports the American economy and creates jobs. Research shows that for every dollar spent by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, 1.7 dollars are added to the economy. The USDA also found that for every billion dollars of added SNAP benefits, an average of 13,000 jobs was created.
SNAP benefits can be used to purchase any foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, dairy products, breads and cereals, snack foods, and seeds. Households cannot buy alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, live animals, and hot foods with SNAP benefits.
This program targets the most at-risk American citizens, especially those with children, elderly, or disabled family members. Let’s talk about the qualifications for receiving these federal benefits.
Qualifications for Receiving SNAP Benefits
Not everyone with a low income is eligible for food stamps. In fact, there are actually several requirements that must be met before you are eligible to apply.
- No more than $2250 countable resources, including your bank account. The first thing you need to determine is the total countable resources in your household. These resources include your bank account and any cash you currently have. For families with a person over the age of 60 or someone living with a disability, the household is allowed to have $3,500 in countable resources.
- Your monthly income must be 130% of the federal poverty level. To qualify for food stamps, your maximum monthly gross income has to be 130% of the poverty level, and your maximum net monthly income must be 100% of the federal poverty level. These income requirements are determined by the number of people living in your home. For example, if your household is only one person, then the gross monthly income to be eligible for benefits is $1,287 (net is $990). For two people, the gross monthly income is $1,726 (net is $1335). Your net income is found by subtracting all of your deductions from your gross income.
- You must be actively looking for employment. There are some employment requirements that go along with being eligible for benefits. Part of receiving SNAP benefits is for them to be temporary assistance as you look for better employment. Because of this, you can’t intentionally leave a job or reduce your working hours to qualify. While each state differs on these requirements, one universal requirement for receiving supplemental assistance is that you must be registered to work, and if you are offered a job, you must take it. Some states even require you to participate in employment and training programs.
- You may have to prove you’re participating in education or training activities. If you are unemployed and considered “able-bodied without dependents,” you are limited to three months of benefits over the course of three years, or 36 months. The only provision for this is to provide information that you are working at least part-time or participating in education or training activities for at least 80 hours in a month, or you’re participating in a workforce program.
How to Apply
- Determine the number of people in your household. Add up the people who make up your household, including dependents and other adults if applicable. The number of people in your household directly relates to the amount of money you can receive through SNAP benefits.
- Determine your assets. Tally up your countable resources. Unless someone is 60 years or older or disabled in your household, you can only have up to $2,250 of countable resources. If you do have someone disabled or over 60 years old in your house, then you can have $3,500 in resources.
- Determine your income. You must figure out your gross and net income. Your gross income is the total you make before any deductions have been made. Your net income is your gross income minus your deductions. To be eligible for benefits, your gross income must be 130% of the federal poverty line, and your net income must be 100% of the poverty line.
- See if you are eligible for deductions. There are some deductions available for people seeking SNAP benefits. Deductions can be for large households, dependent, training or education, medical expenses for disabled or elderly household members, and shelter cost for homeless, to name a few.
- Check employment status. Remember, you can’t reduce your working hours or leave a job just to be eligible for SNAP benefits. You also must be looking for work. Some states require job seminars and proof that you have spent time looking for employment. If you are unemployed and able to work, then you must accept any job offered during the time you are receiving benefits.
- Make sure you’re eligible. Even if you qualify by income and assets, you may still not be able to receive supplemental nutrition assistance benefits. Some people who are not eligible are workers on strike, unauthorized immigrants, and certain legal immigrants. If you are a childless adult who is unemployed without disabilities, you can only receive three months of benefits per three years.
- Complete the application. Once you’ve checked all of the requirements, it’s time to fill out the application. Only one member of the household needs to apply, but everyone in the house must be included in the application. Depending on the state you live in, the application can be submitted electronically or by hand. Once you apply, you will receive a phone call confirming the details of your application before your benefits are processed.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance is something offered by the federal government to its US citizens. The goal of SNAP benefits is to make sure anyone in financial hardship can adequately put food on their table. However, some requirements go with receiving these benefits.
While on SNAP benefits, the receiver must be working or looking for better employment, and they must not have reduced their hours or quit their job just to receive government assistance. Lastly, if a person is an able-bodied worker with no dependents, they can only receive benefits for up to three months every three years.
See more info on getting Food Stamps here.