How To Apply For SNAP Benefits

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Do you need to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)? Here’s what individuals and families need to know about SNAP eligibility, applying for SNAP and what happens after submitting your SNAP application.

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What Is SNAP?

Administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program in the United States. 

A SNAP household is defined as everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares meals together. This includes spouses and most children under age 22. Generally, if an institution gives you most of your meals you would not be eligible for SNAP benefits. However, there are exceptions for elderly and disabled persons.

Eligible low-income individuals and families may receive SNAP benefits through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This card may be used to purchase eligible food for the household from authorized food retailers.

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Am I Eligible for SNAP?

In order to qualify for SNAP, individuals must be able to meet a few requirements. Applicants must live in the state in which they apply for SNAP and meet certain income limits.

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The SNAP eligibility resources page outlines a table of SNAP income eligibility limits per household size. The household must meet the gross and net income limits described in this table. Otherwise, the household is not eligible for SNAP and may not receive benefits. Households with an elderly or disabled person are only required to meet the net income limit. Households in which all members receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be considered categorically eligible for SNAP due to predetermined eligibility for other means-tested programs.

There are also work requirements for SNAP eligibility. The four primary requirements are registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours, taking a job if offered and participating in employment and training programs if assigned by the state. Able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work at least 20 hours per week to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months in a 36-month period. 

Special groups not subject to these requirements include children, seniors, pregnant women and individuals exempt for physical or mental health reasons. Students ages 18 through 49 who are enrolled in college at least part-time are not eligible for SNAP unless they meet specific exemptions. 

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How Do I Apply For SNAP?

SNAP applications must be submitted to your local state agency in the state where you currently live. A member of your household must contact the state agency directly to apply for SNAP. Find your nearest local SNAP office by reviewing the interactive map provided by the SNAP State Directory of Resources. Please note the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) does not process SNAP applications.

If you do not have easy access to the internet, you may find local offices in the state or local government pages of telephone books. These offices may be listed under titles including “Food Stamps,” “Social Services,” “Human Services” and “Public Assistance.” You can find the address of your local state agency and visit the office or call your state’s toll-free SNAP Information hotline.

What Happens After My SNAP Application Is Submitted?

Once you submit your SNAP application, your state agency or local SNAP office will process it. You will receive a notice within 30 days stating if you are or are not eligible for SNAP benefits. Applicants will need to complete an eligibility interview over the telephone or in person and provide verification of the information provided in the application. 

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Eligible individuals will receive SNAP benefits based on the date of their application submission. SNAP benefits will be issued through an EBT card. This card works like a debit card and automatically loads benefits into your account each month. You may use an EBT card at authorized food stores and retailers to purchase groceries.

Where Can I Find More Information About SNAP?

Reach out to your local SNAP office if you have additional questions regarding SNAP benefits or your specific case information. You may also call SNAP’s toll-free information hotline at 800-221-5689.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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