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A Guide to SNAP and Qualifying Income
October 16, 2020

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A Guide to SNAP and Qualifying Income

Originally known as ‘Food Stamps,’ SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) was renamed in 2008 and is widely recognized as a way for Americans struggling with poverty to receive nutritional aid. The amount of people who benefit from SNAP and its subsidiaries varies per study – as the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports 34 million people used SNAP in 2019, while the CBPP (Center of Budget and Policy Priorities) reported 40 million US residents. Additionally, food stamp allotment has been a tricky situation for the Trump administration over these past few years, and much has changed. For example, the government decided to remove 700,000 beneficiaries from the SNAP program early in 2020; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the average food stamp benefit changes were stopped in court.

For those wondering how much you can make to apply for food stamps, the answer is not exactly clear. As the number and rules are constantly changing, the answer to that pressing question changes by the day. Even more noteworthy, the USDA has also proposed 2 additional changes to SNAP requirements. Firstly, households with more than $2,250 in assets would not be eligible to receive food stamps at all, and that number would be increased for households with disabled adults (from $2,250 up to $3,500). The other rule change would eventually remove nearly $5 billion from the program and would result in a change in the formulas that determine eligibility. These rules have not taken effect yet, and they have not been approved as of October 2020.

Continue reading to learn about the average food stamp benefits, how to apply for food stamps, and what you need to do in order to be eligible. Alternatively, navigate to the contact page of our website and begin working with a licensed debt professional today.

A Guide to SNAP and Qualifying Income

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How to Begin Applying for the SNAP Benefits Program

When you meet all of the qualifications for the SNAP program and wish to apply, the first step is to find out what options are available to you. For example, forty-two states in the US offer online application services, and the outliers are Hawaii, Mississippi, Georgia, Alaska, Missouri, Wyoming, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Nevada. The US Department of Agriculture also offers a free screening tool to learn if you are eligible for SNAP benefits and other resources.

If you are rejected from the SNAP program and denied from receiving the benefits that come with it, be sure to review your finances in order to figure out what needs to change. For example, if you are not employed full-time or part-time, then you will not be eligible for food stamp allotments with SNAP. These changes, put into place by the Trump administration, are to guarantee that those receiving financial/nutritional aid are working towards improving themselves. The stereotypical ‘food stamp’ system abuser is someone who is lazy and does not wish to work for themselves to make a living and relies on the taxpayers of America to keep them afloat. The rule changes made over the last few years have changed the system and will actually directly benefit the lower class of America.

How to Qualify for SNAP/Food Stamp Benefits

Households that wish to receive SNAP benefits are limited to, as mentioned above, $2,250 in resources that can be accurately counted (such as a bank account or a similar financial tool). However, those with a household member who is either disabled or older than 60 years of age can have up to $3,250 in countable resources.

Resources that are not considered ‘countable’ include land, the value of your property and home, and other real estate factors. Vehicles such as cars are considered countable in a very different way from other conventional assets. In thirty-two states, the primary vehicle of a household is not considered a countable resource, while twenty-one states exclude the total value of at least one vehicle per family. The other two states use a formula to determine the value of the vehicles in question.

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The Basics of the SNAP Program

Any household member can apply for SNAP benefits and acceptance into the SNAP program at the local county office and/or state office. Applications submitted online are also offered with specific states; however, not every state can accommodate online applications. Typically, once your application is accepted, there is an in-person interview where the proof of your income, expenses, and identity are all required.

Required documentation tends to include proof of your identity (using a federally issued passport, driver’s license, or other such identification), proof of your address, the Social Security numbers for all SNAP beneficiaries in the applying household, and certain other personal documents such as household member age, name, and relationship. Proof of income before taxes and deductions is also required; however, this is something that is best consulted with a licensed financial professional before submitting it. Additionally, proof of immigration status for non-citizens who are applying, along with proof of medical and childcare expenses, are requested as well.

If you or the person applying in your household is unable to visit an office or complete an online application, be sure to call another person who is an authorized representative of your household. They are able to apply and be interviewed on your behalf, although the authorized person must be designated in writing from your household. For all SNAP purposes, including all rules, regulations, and benefits, a household is defined as everyone who lives together, as well as all those who purchase and prepare meals together.

If the person/people applying for SNAP benefits have their meals provided via an institution such as a long-term care home, they are generally not accepted into the SNAP program. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. Elderly people living in federally subsidized housing, as well as disabled people who reside in non-profit group homes with no more than 16 residents, are able to apply for SNAP benefits.

Those people who do qualify for SNAP benefits and are accepted into the SNAP program do not just receive cash every month to do with as they will. They will receive their monthly allotted benefits, also known as their food stamp allotment, through an electronic card that works like a bank debit card. Their benefits are automatically loaded onto the household account’s card each month, which allows those households to spend their benefits at authorized stores whenever they please.

After your application and qualification, you will receive your SNAP benefits and electronic debit card within approximately 30 days. However, if you are in great need of SNAP benefits, there is an emergency option that will arrive within a week. This type of SNAP benefit program is available only to those households with income and money in their bank accounts, adding up to less than the monthly housing expenses.

Contrary to popular belief, there is actually an expiration on your SNAP benefits. All SNAP recipients and beneficiaries are required to recertify their income once per year, although this frequency varies on a case by case basis. If the recertification is not completed within a reasonable time frame, your SNAP benefits may be canceled, and you will be forced to reapply and complete the entire process all over again from scratch. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep an eye on your calendar and fully understand when your income must be recertified. Be sure to let your entire household know when your deadline is, just in case an issue arises.

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Income Limits for Qualification

Aside from your asset and property values, there are a number of income tests that the applying household must pass in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits. Listed below are the income limits for households of up to 8 members. However, keep in mind that if there is an elderly person or someone who is actively receiving disability payments, only the listed net incomes must be met.

Here are the income limits.

  • 1 household member: $1,287 (gross monthly income or 130% of poverty); $990 (net monthly income, 100% percent of poverty)
  • 2 household members: $1,736 (gross); $1,335 (net)
  • 3 household members: $2,184 (gross); $1,680 (net)
  • 4 household members: $2,633 (gross); $2,025 (net)
  • 5 household members: $3,081 (gross); $2,370 (net)
  • 6 household members: $3,530 (gross); $2,715 (net)
  • 7 household members: $3,980 (gross); $3,061 (net)
  • 8 household members: $4,430 (gross); $3,407 (net)

Each additional member: Add $451 to the gross and $347 to the net

For our financially inexperienced readers, gross income is specified as the total non-excluded income of the household before allowable deductions. However, net income is the gross income minus permissible deductions to said income. In both Hawaii and Alaska, the SNAP net and gross income limits are slightly higher than the numbers that are listed above.

What Counts as an Allowable Deduction?

For those of you who do not quite meet these requirements, you may be interested in learning about what counts as an allowable deduction. Listed below are some examples; however, this is in no way an exhaustive list.

  • A 20% deduction from earned income
  • A standard deduction of $157 for households of one to three people and $168 for four people (higher for some larger households)
  • A dependent care deduction (if needed for work, training, or education)
  • Medical expenses for elderly or disabled household members that are more than $35 for the month (if they are not paid by insurance or someone else)
  • Legally owed child support payments
  • Homeless households are allowed $143 for shelter costs (in some states)
  • Excess shelter costs that are more than half of the household’s income after the other deductions

Examples of allowable costs are fuel to heat and cook with, electricity, water, telephone costs, rent or mortgage payments, and taxes on the home. However, the shelter deduction cannot exceed $517 unless one person in the household is elderly or disabled.

All of these allowable deductions are indeed subject to change at any time, and lawmakers are constantly revising and updating the requirements and numbers for each deduction. Due to inflation, as well as other outside economic factors (environmental impact on trade, for example), the amount of money you save from an allowable deduction may increase or decrease depending on the currency value at the time of your financial income tests.

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SNAP Employment Requirements

In order to be eligible to receive SNAP benefits, one must also meet the employment requirements that are put in place to ensure that no one is taking advantage of the SNAP program. These are under review by the Trump administration at the moment; however, due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, it is likely that the requirements for employment will not be changing any time soon. Some of the work requirements are as follows:

  • Registering for work
  • Not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours.
  • Taking a job if offered
  • Participating in their state’s employment and training programs

Additionally, able-bodied adults without dependents must work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months in a 36-month period.

Obviously, not everyone is able to comply with these regulations. For example, children who cannot legally get a proper job, seniors who are unable to work in a conventional environment, and those with mental and physical illnesses. These people are also considered when deciding how food stamp allotment functions per household and who gets more of a monthly allowance than others.

Disability Status With SNAP

As with any government program, there are many exemptions and exceptions to the regular SNAP process if one or more household members are considered disabled or elderly. For clarification, a person is considered to be elderly once they have reached 60 years of age, which is actually 5 years younger than the usual industry standard of 65 years of age.

To be considered disabled for SNAP benefits, a person must meet a multitude of criteria, and the classification depends on their circumstances as well. For example, a military veteran who is totally disabled, in need of regular aid, or permanently housebound is considered disabled under SNAP guidelines. However, a surviving spouse or child or a veteran who is receiving VA benefits and is considered to be permanently disabled is also guaranteed SNAP disability advantages.

How Much Can You Benefit Per Month From SNAP?

For those of you wondering how much you can get from food stamps, the answer is slightly more complicated than you may think. The reason for that is, as mentioned above, the amount of benefits that you are eligible to claim on a monthly basis is directly influenced by the number of household members you live with. As with the earning requirements as well as the SNAP employee requirements, things change based on how many other people are living with you.

Here are the maximum monthly allotments with the average monthly payments in parentheses from 2015, the date of the latest available data.

  • 1 household member: $194 ($142)
  • 2 household members: $357 ($253)
  • 3 household members: $511 ($379)
  • 4 household members: $649 ($465)
  • 5 household members: $771 ($556)
  • 6 household members: $925 ($657)
  • 7 household members: $1,022 ($697)
  • 8 household members: $1,169 ($870)
  • Each additional person: $146

What should you make of this data? Well, for one, this means that you are eligible for over a thousand dollars a year of extra financial income due to SNAP benefits if you live alone. How much food stamps for one person is calculated based on the inflation rate, as well as how much money is needed to live on per year. That is clearly a huge boost to those struggling with poverty. Alternatively, if you are living with a large group of other people, you will have to spend more money, but you will be compensated for this by a larger monthly benefit from SNAP (on top of any other programs that you may be participating in).

Another detail that is noteworthy for those who are wishing to sign up for more programs that can give them financial aid is that by qualifying for the SNAP program, you are automatically eligible for numerous other government-sanctioned help programs. These include the Low Income Government Assistance program, which is designed to help target those who are struggling at or below the poverty line of America. If you need help paying your electric bill, be sure to reach out to financial advisors before your power is turned off and your house is disconnected.

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How SNAP Works for Legal Immigrants

Obviously, there is a certain level of criteria to become a SNAP beneficiary if you are an immigrant to the USA. This is to help prevent the incentive to move to America and leach off the system that has been carefully set up. One of the requirements of benefiting from SNAP is to have been a citizen for over 5 years before qualifying for the program.

According to a law passed in 2002 widely known as the ‘2002 Farm Bill’, SNAP is granted to almost all legal immigrants who have lived in the country for five years, are receiving disability-related assistance (including benefits), or are minors under 18, whether accompanied or not. People who are considered non-citizens, like those who have been admitted to the US for humanitarian reasons (such as refugees) or those admitted for permanent residence, may be eligible. Non-citizens, such as students or those on a work permit (like seasonal workers), are not eligible for SNAP benefits of any kind.

Obviously, there are certain reasons that this system has been put in place for the reason it has. Seasonal workers and those non-citizens who are only temporarily in the US do not qualify for benefits due to them not being a priority when Americans are in need. Another important thing to note is that illegal immigrants will never be given SNAP benefits, as valid paperwork (such as a passport, proof of residence, driver’s license, etc.) is required in order to qualify.

Restrictions on SNAP Purchases (Using Benefits)

Households are permitted to use their monthly food stamp allotment for a multitude of purchases, including but certainly not limited to bread, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, cereals, seeds, plants, and many dairy products. In special cases, those who are qualified to do so may use SNAP benefits at restaurants. These special privileges are restricted to those beneficiaries who are homeless, elderly, or disabled with a mental or physical illness/injury.

Food that is eligible to be purchased using SNAP benefits includes any food or food product that can be used for home consumption, as per the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. Therefore, sugary foods and those that are not typically considered healthy for you, such as chips, soft drinks, candy, cookies, and ice cream, are eligible for purchase. Additionally, luxury food items such as seafood, steak, bakery items, and other red meats are also considered permissible due to their designation as food items.

However, there is one outlier. While all energy drinks with a nutrition facts label on their packaging are considered eligible foods, those energy drinks with a supplement facts label are classified as a supplement, meaning that they are ineligible for purchase using SNAP program benefits. These rules are enforced by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they also include special-occasion cakes with decorations that exceed 50% of the cake’s purchase price as ineligible.

Widespread and popular items that cannot be purchased using SNAP benefits include beer, wines, liquor, and any other alcoholic beverage. Additionally, cigarettes, tobacco products, soaps, pet foods, household supplies, paper products, vitamins, medicines, cosmetics, grooming items, food that will be eaten in the store, and hot foods are prohibited.

Ready to Begin Working With Licensed Professionals to Solve Your Debt Issues?

If you are tired of living from paycheck to paycheck with seemingly no end in sight, then be sure to contact DebtQuest USA. As an established brand in the debtor and creditor financial market, we are here to help all Americans. Founded on the goals of transparency and dependability, DebtQuest USA is your go-to solution to solving all of your debt problems swiftly and efficiently. Due to our expertise, we have countless satisfied clients who are well on their way to leading normal, happy lives. By putting your trust in the financial experts, you can rest assured that your savings are in good hands.

We honestly care about our clients and believe that our empathy helps us secure the brightest possible future for people in varying circumstances. We know that everyone is different and that all financial matters are certainly not the same. Let us help get you and your household back on the right track and work towards a better life by the day. So, what are you waiting for? Contact DebtQuest USA today to begin changing your life for the better and escaping your debt!

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