Are You Eligible for SNAP Benefits?

Do You Qualify for Food Stamps? Find Out How To Tell

( – Food insecurity is still a critical concern in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 10.5% of all households struggled to afford enough food to live healthy lifestyles in 2020. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to this longtime issue, but the government has created programs to allow low-income Americans who need help access to some options. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food benefits to qualifying needy families.

What is the SNAP Program?

SNAP, commonly known as the food stamp program, provides money for the purchase of qualifying food items. Recipients receive benefits on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card they can use at participating locations to purchase approved items. Each month, funds are applied to the card, allowing families to afford better food instead of cheaper unhealthy options.

The SNAP program is intended to provide support for low-income households with little to no assets.

Income Guidelines

SNAP defines “income” as the amount of funding that all household members earn or receive money through employment, unemployment benefits, disability programs, government welfare programs, or child support payments. Qualifying families must have a gross monthly income at or below the poverty line. In most cases, net income must also fall at or below the poverty line.

Households with a disabled person, or an individual over 60, are only required to meet the net income requirements.

The total number of people in a household determines what amount qualifies as the poverty line. Income guidelines are similar in all states except Alaska and Hawaii, which allow for a slightly higher income threshold.

SNAP may also allow some households to deduct expenses from income amounts, including medical bills, utilities, and child care costs. All applicants also receive a standard deduction which varies by state and family size and composition.

Asset Guidelines

“Assets” are items a household might sell to earn money for food. The state discounts essential items from consideration, such as a family’s primary home and any personal property. It also sets a value limit for allowable assets.

To be considered eligible for the program, families must prove they have less than $2,500 in total assets at the time of application. Households with a senior family member aged 60 or older are given a $3,750 asset threshold instead.

Work Requirements

SNAP does have a work requirement. Adults must be employed, actively looking for work, or participating in work training and may not quit a job or willingly reduce their hours while receiving benefits. Seniors, pregnant women, and those who cannot work due to health reasons are usually exempt from these requirements.

Automatic Ineligibility

Some people cannot qualify for SNAP even if they meet income and asset guidelines. The government forbids undocumented immigrants, persons on strike, and some college students from the program, even if they meet the other requirements for eligibility. Documented immigrants and resident aliens may be eligible if they can prove they have dependents, suffer from a disability, or have lived in the US for at least five years.

Adults with no minor children in need of benefits are eligible, but they must meet special requirements. If they are unemployed, they can only receive SNAP benefits for three months every three years. Anyone found committing fraud could face a lifetime ban from the program.

Applying for Benefits

If you or someone you love needs help affording safe and reliable nutrition, applying for the SNAP program may be able to help. Contact your local SNAP office if you have questions or if you need help starting the application process. Some states also allow you to apply online or via regular mail.

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