SNAP Benefits: How Is Eligibility Determined?

Muncie - Circa January 2018: A Sign at a Retailer - We Accept SNAP.
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously known as the Food Stamp Program, provides food-purchasing assistance to eligible families. Most families who meet the program’s income requirements are deemed eligible, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), with the size of a family’s SNAP benefit based on its income and certain expenses.

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The CBPP reported that under federal law, to be eligible for benefits a household’s income and resources must meet three criteria:

  • Gross monthly income, which is a household’s monthly income before the program’s deductions are applied, must be at or below 130% of the federal poverty line. For a family of three, the poverty line used to determine SNAP benefits in federal fiscal year 2022 is $1,830 a month and 130% of this amount is $2,379 a month, or around $28,550 a year. 
  • Net income, which is household income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the federal poverty line. 
  • Assets must fall below certain thresholds. Households without a member who is age 60 or older or who has a disability must have assets of $2,500 or less, and households with such a member must have assets of $3,750 or less.

SNAP considers income from all sources, including earned income before payroll taxes are deducted and unearned income.

Assets are defined as resources that are available to the household to purchase food, such as bank accounts. The household’s home, personal property, retirement savings and most vehicles do not count. According to the CBPP, states have the ability to relax asset limits. 

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There is an additional limit known as the three-month time limit. However, Congress had it suspended until the month after the federal public health emergency ends, the CBPP noted. 

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Under this rule, individuals between the ages of 18 and 50 are limited to three months of SNAP benefits every three years unless they are working or in a work or training program 20 hours a week. Exemptions include those who live with children in the household, those determined to be physically or mentally unfit for work, pregnant women and others determined to be exempt.

There are also some people who may not qualify for SNAP benefits even if they meet income requirements, the CBPP added. This includes individuals who are on strike, those without a documented immigration status, some college students attending school more than half time and certain immigrants who are lawfully present.

To get SNAP benefits, The U.S. Department of Agriculture says to apply in the state in which you currently reside and meet income and resource requirements. SNAP eligibility requirements are updated each year.

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Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.
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