Social Security: Could COLA Increase Reduce Your Food Stamps Benefits?

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For the 66 million Americans receiving Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA), many are eligible for additional financial assistance programs such as Medicare and SNAP.

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As the cost of food rises (up 11.4% in August, per the latest Consumer Price Index report), SNAP is especially important to help the elderly, widows/widowers and disabled individuals get the nutrition they need while on a fixed income.

In fact, as GOBankingRates previously reported, many on Social Security are missing out on the opportunity to receive these benefits. Citing a 2021 study by the National Council on Aging, it was found that 5 million people have not entered into the SNAP program even though they qualify for it.

There are certain requirements, including household income limits, that must be met to be eligible for the program. This has many wondering if they might still be able to collect SNAP assistance once the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) goes into effect since it will up the amount of money paid out in Social Security every month to adjust for rates of inflation.

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Expected to be announced Thursday, Oct. 13, the projections for the 2023 COLA are estimated to be about 8.7%, according to The Senior Citizens League, or an extra $144 per month for individuals and $240 for couples filing jointly on average.

Per Forbes, that means that individuals on average will now receive $1,801 a month and couples where both spouses are on Social Security will now net about $2,993 a month. So how do these updated payment amounts affect SNAP eligibility?

There’s a few factors to take into consideration. Even though Social Security monthly payments may be going up, the USDA still looks at “gross income” (the total before taxes and deductions) and “net income” (what’s left after deductions) when issuing SNAP benefits.

Learn: This Credit Score Mistake Could Be Costing Millions of Americans

Beneficiaries are able to deduct child support payments, housing costs and even medical expenses (for those 60 and older or for individuals that have disabilities). Furthermore, individuals or households that have an elderly member of a disabled individual only have to meet requirements for the net income, said the SSA.

There are also limitations on personal resources that are allowed, such as money in a bank account. A home is not considered a resource in this context and most states allow households to have one vehicle and still be eligible for SNAP, the SSA noted. For bank balances, an allowable amount is $2,250 per household or $3,500 per household if one person is over 60 years of age or disabled.

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Beyond these statues, when it comes to the net income and gross income the USDA looks at to issue SNAP benefits, those limits are as follows, recently updated as of Oct. 1 when the USDA began its new fiscal year.

The monthly gross income must be what is considered 130% of the federal poverty level, or $1,473 for a one-person household and $5,052 for an eight-person household (with $512 added on for each additional family member). For monthly net income, those limits should be reflective of 100% of the determined federal poverty line, or $1,133 for a one-person household and $3,886 for an 8-person household (with $394 added for each additional family member).

The current income levels eligible for SNAP benefits have increased this year, just ahead of the COLA increase, which will work together for most people on Social Security to keep getting SNAP benefits.

For net income, which is what the USDA looks at for most people on Social Security benefits, those numbers have gone up $59/month for one-person households and $164 for households of eight people based on previous income limits reported by GOBankingRates. The USDA added that resource limits are going up for households where at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled. That amount is now $4,250.

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Find: If I Make $1,800 a Month, Can I Get Food Stamps?

Given that the SNAP program has COLAs just like Social Security, ideally the income thresholds for SNAP will offset the bigger Social Security payments beneficiaries will start to receive in January 2023. If you’re still unsure about your individual situation, your local Social Security office can help with any questions.

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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