10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About SNAP

SNAP and EBT Accepted here sign. SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of disadvantaged families stock photo
jetcityimage / iStock.com

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, helps low-income people in the U.S. — including those who work for low wages or are unemployed, disabled or on welfare — buy the food they need to sustain a nutritious diet. The amount of SNAP assistance a family can receive is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan, which is an estimate of what it costs to buy nutritious low-cost food to make at home.

You can apply for SNAP assistance through the local office of your state’s public assistance agency. However, you must meet eligibility requirements to qualify for the program. For better understanding of the program’s benefits, here are 10 things most Americans don’t know about SNAP.

You Can Be Homeless and Qualify for SNAP

In general, everyone who lives together and prepares meals together in the same household can qualify for SNAP payments. However, you can be homeless and still qualify for SNAP. You are considered homeless if you are temporarily staying in a supervised shelter, halfway house, another person’s residence or you sleep somewhere such as a hallway, bus station or lobby.

Some Non-Citizens Are Eligible To Qualify for SNAP

While undocumented non-citizens are not eligible for SNAP, non-citizens who are legally in the U.S. and who meet one of the following requirements are generally eligible to qualify for SNAP: 

  • Lived in the U.S. for at least five years
  • Receiving disability assistance or benefits
  • Under age 18
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Meeting Gross and Net Income Limits Is Required To Qualify

Most households must meet gross and net income limits to qualify to receive SNAP assistance. Your gross income is your total income before taxes or deductions, while your net income is the amount left over after taxes and deductions. Housing costs, child support payments and child care payments are all things you can deduct from your gross income to help you meet SNAP income limits.

Gross monthly income must be at or below 130% of the federal poverty line. Net income must be at or below 100% of the federal poverty line.

However, there are some exceptions. A household with an elderly person or someone who receives disability payments only has to meet the net income test. Additionally, if everyone in the household receives Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the household is considered income-eligible.

Resource Limits Must Also Be Met To Qualify

Resources include cash or money in a bank account, but not your home and lot or most retirement accounts and pension plans. Current resource limits are $2,500 — or $3,750 if at least one person in the household is at least age 60, disabled or receiving SSI or TANF.

You May Have To Meet Work Requirements for Eligibility

In general, you have to meet the following work requirements to be eligible for SNAP payments or you will be disqualified:

  • Registering for work
  • Not voluntarily quitting or reducing hours
  • Accepting a job if offered
  • Participating in any employment and training programs assigned by your state
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To receive SNAP benefits for more than three months over a three-year period, able-bodied adults without dependents must work or participate in a work program at least 20 hours per week. Children, seniors, pregnant women and people who have qualifying physical or mental health conditions may not be subject to these work requirements.

An Interview Is Required After You Submit a SNAP Application

Once you fill out your SNAP application, you will be contacted to complete an eligibility interview either by phone or in person.

You will have to provide proof of eligibility, including proof of income for all household members and bills or payment records for deductions you claim, such as rent or mortgage, child support or dependent care payments.

SNAP Benefits Are Retroactive

If you meet eligibility requirements for SNAP payments and your application is approved by your state agency, your benefits will be retroactive — back to the date you submitted your application.

You May Be Able To Receive SNAP Payments Within 7 Days

Even though it can take up to 30 days to receive SNAP benefits once you apply, you may be able to receive SNAP benefits within seven days of submitting your application if you meet at least one of the following additional requirements:

  • Your household has less than $100 in liquid resources and less than $150 in monthly gross income.
  • Your liquid resources and monthly gross income are less than your monthly obligation for rent or mortgage plus utilities.
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You’re Expected To Spend 30% of Your Resources on Food

Don’t expect to get payments to cover 100% of your food costs. You’re expected to spend 30% of your resources on food.

The total amount of SNAP benefits you receive, also known as your allotment, is calculated by multiplying your household’s net monthly income by 0.3 and rounding up. Then, subtract the answer from the maximum monthly allotment according to the size of your household.

You Will Have To Recertify To Keep Receiving Payments

SNAP payments will not continue indefinitely. If you qualify for SNAP payments, your state agency will send you a notice that states how long your certification period will last. Then, before your certification period ends, you’ll receive a notice that you must recertify if you want to continue receiving payments.

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