Are you a low-income family? Are you having trouble paying for your rent and utilities? Are you struggling to afford the food on the table, or do you know of someone who is going through a rough time? If you answered yes to any of the questions, then you are eligible for various programs the United States government offers to make your life easier.
In fact, there are many programs that the government offers to make sure that people in need don’t go hungry. One of them is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. For people below the poverty line, this program provides monthly nutrition benefits that can be used at any grocery store or farmers market and improve their nutritional intake.
The SNAP program is designed to help low-income families, especially those with children, by providing an essential lifeline to low-income families. This article will provide information about SNAP benefits and how to apply if you meet the eligibility criteria.
- What Is SNAP, and How Does it Work?
- How Do You Apply for SNAP?
- SNAP Benefits and How to Calculate
- SNAP Eligibility Requirements
- Advantages of Participating in SNAP
What Is SNAP, and How Does it Work?
SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, helps low-income individuals and families afford a nutritionally adequate diet. It has become increasingly associated with obesity and poor nutrition among Americans. The program provides nutrition assistance to people of all backgrounds in an effort to help those who struggle with food security.
SNAP is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), which uses local county agencies or states to distribute food stamps. To qualify for SNAP benefits, you need to fulfill low-income guidelines and must be eligible for benefits by meeting specific requirements. If you qualify and pass the SNAP interview, you get food stamps or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to be used at most supermarkets and grocery stores.
The EBT card works like a debit card. And every month, your benefits are loaded into your account to purchase groceries at authorized retailers and stores. Also, the amount and type of food stamps you will get depends on your income and household size, but there is no limit to how many times you can use them.
You’re free to use the EBT cards to purchase eligible food items within the approved limit at designated retail stores like Walmart. In this way, this federally-funded program aims to reduce food insecurity, increase access to healthy foods and help families achieve financial stability.
Brief History about Supplementary Nutrition Assitance Program SNAP
As established earlier, SNAP started as the Food Stamp Program (FSP) in May 1939 but was renamed SNAP on October 1, 2008. The Food Stamp Program began with paper stamps printed like money and coupled in a booklet like a checkbook.
When the idea sprung up, the United States faced a food surplus and simultaneously had a growing population of poor people emerging from the Great Depression. The initial idea of the FSP was to bridge the gap between surplus food and the needy in American society.
In 1943, food surpluses dwindled due to the war efforts, and the government terminated the program. It later made a comeback in 1960. Since then, it has changed eligibility, purchase requirements, and benefit formulas.
How Do You Apply for SNAP?
There isn’t one unifying website or office for applying for SNAP benefits. Therefore, how you apply depends on what your state agency adopts. You must apply in your state of residence, so a household member must directly contact the state agency.
There are three possible application methods your state may choose. They can either have applications via phone call to the toll-free SNAP hotline, by visiting your state agency website, filling out an online form, or by visiting the local SNAP office.
Usually, a submitted application and processing takes 30 days to process and receive a result. During that time, you’ll undergo an interview and be given a chance to prove the information you provided in your application is correct.
In cases where you or a household member cannot personally apply, you’re free to have someone submit and get interviewed on your behalf. Before they can begin the application, you’ll have to designate in writing the authority to carry out the application.
How Long Does It Take to Receive SNAP Benefits?
The standard time for SNAP application processing is thirty days. However, there are unique situations where emergency aid is needed, and you can access benefits within seven days of application. Examples of emergencies that qualify for faster processing include a medical issue, unemployment, or disaster.
In addition to the eligibility requirements, you need to meet additional ones that may differ from one state to another. For instance, if your household has a gross monthly income of less than $150 and only has assets worth less than $100, you may be eligible for an application of a higher priority.
Yet another instance is if your household’s monthly utility expenses and rent or mortgage are more than the combined monthly gross income. You may also receive benefits within seven days.
Snap Benefits and How Can You Calculate It?
Food stamps assist needy families in buying healthy, nutritious food. By linking the benefits to the cost of food plans, SNAP considers where each family spends its money and provides more resources for those who need it most.
The monthly benefits are tied to the food plan cost that includes all necessary dietary requirements as suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The SNAP program allows people to buy healthy food while looking for work or increase their wages. The state department of social services determines how much a household or individual should get based on several factors, such as size and income.
The state-sponsored program expects a household with no income receive the full benefit, while those earning $150 or more per month receive the maximum amount they qualify for minus 30% of the amount they spend on food each month.
SNAP Maximum Benefit and Calculation – Table and Example
Here is a table containing the maximum SNAP benefits for a household of one and above. You can easily use it and the examples we provide to calculate how much you’ll possibly receive.
|SNAP Benefits by Household Size|
|Household Size||Maximum Monthly Benefit,
Fiscal Year 2022
|Each additional person||$188|
|Source: SNAP – Fiscal Year 2022 Cost-of-Living Adjustments|
Going by the calculation presented in the previous section, suppose a family of four is eligible for SNAP benefits; the maximum benefit they can receive is $835. If they earn $500 monthly as gross income, their 30% deduction would be $150. Subtract that $150 from their maximum benefit of $835, and the family will hypothetically receive monthly aid of $685 to support food purchases.
SNAP Eligibility Requirements
Besides being a documented United States resident aged 18 and above, you must meet specific financial requirements before you or your household is considered eligible. These are gross monthly income, net income, and assets.
The rules for becoming eligible for SNAP benefits are pretty straightforward. If you work, your gross monthly income must be at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Your gross monthly income is your take-home income before any of the program’s deductions.
Next, your net income after deductions must either be at or below the poverty line. And concerning your household assets, households with a disabled or elderly member must have assets of $3,750 or less, and those without must have $2,500 or less.
Your income is classified as all earned and unearned income. And assets are resources the household has readily available to purchase food in cash or a bank account. Retirement savings, most cars, residential homes, and personal property do not count as assets.
Who Is Not Eligible for SNAP?
SNAP benefits are only available for qualified applicants. The government tries to be as fair as possible, but unfortunately, not everyone is eligible for benefits.
Ineligible people include undocumented immigrants and documented immigrants who have been in the United States for less than five years. Students staying in college more than half the time, especially during the pandemic, are also ineligible.
In addition, individuals on strike may also not apply for SNAP benefits. And unemployed adults without children can only access three months of SNAP every three years.
Advantages of Participating in SNAP
SNAP is a highly effective and efficient program. Touted by independent experts as one of the best social welfare policies in the nation, it provides those who need it with food assistance by subsidizing their nutrition expenses or outright paying for them.
SNAP is one way the government and the country leaders show that they haven’t forgotten or discarded the lower income population, whether the economy is booming or not. It assures the less privileged that they’ll receive support when in need.
In addition to these advantages, SNAP also helps people who are facing temporary financial struggles. No one can see tomorrow, and you can’t be sure when you’ll fall into financial hardship. If this does happen, you’ll have SNAP to assist with food bills.
Disadvantages of Using SNAP
It’s common knowledge that people look down on others who require aid, and the SNAP or Food Stamp Program isn’t left out. You also might feel ashamed of getting government support to purchase food, but you shouldn’t feel that way. Focus instead on feeding your family.
One of the reasons the Food Stamp Program was changed to the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was because of the stigma its beneficiaries faced. Not only did they change the name, but they eliminated the use of stamps and switched to the EBTs.
Another disadvantage of this program is that criminals might use it for fraud. Criminals may adopt and exploit children only to collect the SNAP benefits for themselves.
SNAP is one of the many avenues for the needy in the United States to receive help with monthly expenses. While recipients face unwarranted stigma from the privileged in society, it doesn’t erase the filled bellies of millions of starving families in America.