Are you or a family member struggling to put food on the table and afford basic necessities? If so, you may want to consider applying for assistance.
The government provides food stamps for citizens that meet certain qualifications. This provision can help parents feed their children and provide the basic necessities.
You can use food stamps at physical stores and sometimes online to buy groceries. There is a limit to what you can purchase with food stamps. Certain items are not able to be paid for with your food stamps.
This article will go over what food stamps are, how they work, who qualifies to receive them, and the steps you take to apply.
Read on to find answers to questions commonly asked about food stamps.
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- What Are Food Stamps
- Who Can Get Food Stamps
- What Can I Buy With Food Stamps
- What Cant I Buy With Food Stamps
- Can I Give My Food Stamps To Someone Else
- What Stores Accept Food Stamps
- How Long Can I Be On Food Stamps
- What Information Do I Need To Provide To Apply For Food Stamps
- How Do I Apply
- How Long Does The Process Take
- When Will I Get My Food Stamps And Be Able To Use Them
- Are There Any Application Fees
- If I Do Not Use All My Benefits Will I lose Them
- What If I Am Already Receiving Benefits Or Government Support
- Do I Need To Keep Renewing My Food Stamps
- Can I Be Rejected
- What Should I Do If I Am Rejected
What Are Food Stamps
Food stamps are a form of support provided by the federal government. SNAP or Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program is a benefit people in the US can apply for to help them buy food.
This benefit is meant to assist low-income families with their nutritional needs. Your benefits are issued through an Electronic Benefits Transfer card (EBT).
These benefits are provided by the federal government in each state. Each state is responsible for deciding who qualifies for the benefits and issuing the food stamps.
Who Can Get Food Stamps
To be eligible to apply for food stamps, you need to meet certain qualifications. You must be a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. If you are an immigrant you may need to have certain immigrant status to qualify for food stamps.
You must prove you are below a certain income limit to qualify for SNAP assistance. See the heading below to confirm the general income limits per person.
What Is The Income Limit To Qualify For Food Stamps
Individuals or families can qualify for food stamps. The amount you receive will be based on the household size and the income of the household.
See the chart below to learn the maximum income each household size can have to qualify for food stamps.
People who live together but purchase or prepare their food together can qualify as a household. Couples who live together or partners who are married qualify as a household. Two adults who are not married but live together and our parents of a child together can qualify as a household.
It is possible that some households will have to go through a resource test. This is a test where your assets, income, countable resources, and other factors will be assessed.
What Can I Buy With Food Stamps
You can buy many different kinds of groceries with food stamps. You can purchase food such as fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy, bread, cereal, certain snack foods, and non-alcoholic beverages. You may also be able to purchase plants or seeds which would grow into food.
Basically, your food stamps cover staple foods, healthy foods, and any other necessary or common groceries.
What Cant I Buy With Food Stamps
The main reason food stamps are provided to individuals and households is to make sure they have enough food for themselves and their families. The government will provide healthy food and groceries for households. However, they will not allow you to purchase unnecessary or special items using your food stamps.
There are general restrictions on certain items and non-food items. You cannot purchase:
- Medicines, prescriptions, vitamins, or supplements
- Animals or pet food
- Cleaning supplies
- Other household supplies.
- Prepared or heated food that is hot at the time of purchase
Alcohol, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco can be considered extra Goods that are not necessary. Those items do not contribute to food nutrition and are not necessary for a healthy diet. Therefore those items and other items included on the prohibited list will not be covered by food stamps.
Keep in mind that each state has its own restrictions and prohibited items. Some states may allow the purchase of pet food, clothing, or other goods that another state may not allow. You can confirm the items your States benefits cover by finding a list online that is provided by your state.
Can I Give My Food Stamps To Someone Else
If you have applied for and received food stamps you are responsible for using them properly. The federal government takes the sharing or sale of your food stamps very seriously.
You are not allowed to put possessions or money in someone else’s name to qualify for food stamps. You cannot make changes to your food stamp card or documents.
You should never trade or give away your food stamps or documents. Your food stamps should be used only to buy the eligible items that are on the approved list.
Any individual that goes against the federal government’s rules for use of food stamps could be disqualified from the program, given a fine, and or put in prison., or all three.
The government has a toll-free number that anyone can call to report the abuse of any SNAP benefits. The phone number is 1-800-424-9121.
All reports of food stamp abuse will be filed and you may be investigated if someone has reported abuse of your food stamps.
How Long Can I Be On Food Stamps
There is no time limit for how long someone can receive Food Stamps. The US Department of Agriculture or the supplemental nutrition assistance program has no defined or set time limit. You will continue to receive food stamps as long as you continue to meet the eligibility criteria.
What Stores Accept Food Stamps
Usually, major grocery store chains, some pharmacies, certain gas stations, farmer’s markets, and local food providers can accept EBT.
For example, stores such as Walmart, Target, CVS, Walgreens, Dollar General, and Dave’s Mini Mart can accept EBT.
You can find resources and lists online for the stores and pharmacies in your area that will accept EBT. It is important that you confirm the store accepts EBT before trying to use your card. Each state’s list of doors that cooperate with e b t may be different.
The only known meal kit that accepts EBT is Top Box foods. Blue Apron and HelloFresh do not accept EBT.
What Information Do I Need To Provide To Apply For Food Stamps
You will need to provide identification such as a state ID, work or school ID, drivers license, or birth certificate. Voter registration, a health insurance card, or proof of alien status could also be used.
You will need to provide income proof. You can provide one of the following documents to prove your income:
- Pay stub
- Statement from your employer
- Veterans benefits
- Unemployment insurance benefits
- Current benefits verification letter
- Document that shows child support received or alimony
Each member of the household will need to show proof of income when applying for food stamps.
You will also need to provide proof of these factors:
- Residency (Proof that you currently live in the state you are applying for SNAP with)
- Proof of your expenses for any dependents in your care
- Proof of mortgage or rent payments
- Proof of your utility costs
- Proof of any medical bills for members of your household who are 60 or older and for any other individuals who receive disability or SSI benefits.
- Proof of no criminal background (background check)
- If a non citizen, adequate proof of legal residence
How Do I Apply
When applying for food stamps you need to fill out the application and provide information to your specific state’s food stamp program. Each state will have a different application form and they may have different requirements.
Click this link to see a list of all the state’s food stamp programs. You can select the state you live in and view the application process, the information your state will need to collect, and any other relevant information.
For example, The state of North Carolina requires that you are currently a resident of North Carolina and meet certain income requirements.
You must have less than $2,001 in your savings and checking account combined. Or you must have less than $3,001 in your bank account if you have a person aged 60 living with you or you have a disabled child, spouse, or parent living with you.
The maximum income level per year for one person to qualify for food stamps in North Carolina is $25,760.
Contact Your Local Food Stamp Benefits Provider
Once you have confirmed your eligibility you can go to your food stamp benefits provider.
You will need to locate your state on this list. Once you do so click the link. Scroll down the page and click “Apply for your state SNAP”. After clicking that button you will be sent to the directions page.
From that page you can download the application form for your state’s SNAP benefits.That page will reiterate the qualifications you need to have to be eligible for SNAP. It will also cover restrictions and state specific information.
Read that page thoroughly before completing the application.
How Long Does The Process Take
Once you complete your application and provide the correct documentation the SNAP office will consider your application. This can take up to 30 days.
You may need to attend an interview with a representative. During this interview you will be questioned about your income and expenses.
Certain families could qualify for expedited processing. This would take up to 7 days to complete.
If you do not hear anything after 30 days you can contact the local SNAP office where you applied.
When Will I Get My Food Stamps And Be Able To Use Them
After you apply for and are approved for food stamp benefits you should receive an e b t card. This is an electronic benefits transfer card. Any cash and/or SUNCAP benefits will be deposited onto this card during the first three days of each month.
Any food stamp benefits are deposited into your account throughout the month. Once they are deposited you should immediately have access to the fund. If you have any issues using your card, contact your state’s SNAP benefits provider.
Are There Any Application Fees
You will not be charged to submit the application and there are no fees to use your benefits. You will not be charged a transaction fee when you purchase groceries and food using your EBT card.
If I Do Not Use All My Benefits Will I lose Them
You’ll receive benefits each month which will be deposited in your EBT card. You cannot cash out your benefits and you cannot use them for items that are not approved for purchase. If you do not use all of your benefits for 1 month the unused portion of your benefits will be rolled over into the next month.
Any unused benefits in a 12-month/1 year. Will be removed from your account.
What If I Am Already Receiving Benefits Or Government Support
If you are already receiving income assistance, retirement benefits, or disability benefits these payments will be taken into consideration when calculating your income. If your income is over the maximum household limit you may not qualify to receive Food Stamps.
Refer back To the Chart under the heading Who Can Get Benefits in this article.
Do I Need To Keep Renewing My Food Stamps
Yes, most assistance programs require that you update your assistance provider and renew every 6 to 12 months. SNAP is no different.
You will be notified of your benefits coverage dates. You must renew before your benefits assistance expires.
For most individuals, SNAP benefits are given in a 3 month period. This means you would need to renew every 3 months to ensure you continue to receive SNAP benefits.
In general, household benefits last 6 months.
How Do I Reapply
You will receive a notice about a month before you need to renew. You will need to collect the correct documents such as proof of identity, income, and expense.
Then you will need to complete the Renewal Form for your state specific SNAP benefits. Make sure you have the correct form for your state. The form should include your state’s name at the top.
In some states you can renew online. If that is not an option you should be able to renew by mail or go in person.
Once you complete the form and attach your proof you need to submit the form online or in person. You can also mail the form into your local SNAP office.
Your form will then be looked over, this could take up to 30 days. If you are approved for a SNAP benefits renewal you will receive a Renewal letter which details your benefits coverage dates.
Can I Be Rejected
Yes, you can be rejected on your first application or renewal. You could be rejected for one of the following reasons:
- You did not provide the correct documents
- Your income does not fall under the maximum income limit
- You are not a US citizen or lawful resident
- You are not a resident in the state which you applied for benefits
- You are an adult capable of work (you may be required to be actively seeking work)
- Your assets exceed $2,250
- You have a previous felony drug conviction
- You have a convicted SNAP fraud charge in another state
- You did not attend your SNAP interview
If you were rejected because you didn’t provide the correct documents then you should submit the correct documents. You may be approved after doing this.
What Should I Do If I Am Rejected
If you are rejected and believe the decision is not correct you can appeal the decision. To do this you need to submit a written request for reconsideration at your local SNAP office. You will need to locate your closest SNAP office by going to your state’s SNAP benefits website. From there you can find an “Office Locator”.
When you send in the written request for reconsideration detail why you believe the decision was incorrect. Provide any other evidence or documents you have.
Your application will be considered again. You usually have within 90 days to appeal a decision.
If you apply for reconsideration after 90 days have passed you may not be given a reconsideration.