Food Stamps: COLA Update Increases SNAP EBT Benefits By 12.5% Starting Oct. 1

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Americans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will get a needed financial boost thanks to a major cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) due to go into effect for fiscal year 2023.

The COLA, which kicks in beginning on Oct. 1, 2022, will hike benefits by 12.5%, per Motley Fool’s The Ascent. The increase is designed to help offset this year’s skyrocketing inflation rate, which has been running at its highest level in more than four decades.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides food-purchasing assistance to low-income households. Although it is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program is administered at the state level. Recipients now have their benefits loaded onto Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards and no longer pay with food stamps.

The USDA announced the new COLA in an Aug. 9 memo posted on its website. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, here’s how the monthly SNAP benefit will change for recipients in the 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia:

  • The maximum monthly food allotment for individual SNAP recipients will increase to $281 from $250 previously.
  • For couples, the maximum monthly allotment will increase to $516 from $459.
  • For four-person households, the maximum monthly allotment will increase to $939 from $835.
  • The minimum monthly allotment will increase to $23 from $20.

According to the USDA, maximum allotments for a family of four will increase to a range of $1,172 to $1,819 in Alaska, to $1,794 in Hawaii, to $1,385 in Guam and to $1,208 in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Make Your Money Work for You

As The Ascent noted, because SNAP is administered at the state level, the eligibility process might vary depending on where you live — especially for states that still have COVID-19 pandemic exceptions in place. However, eligibility typically depends on your income and assets. The general rule of thumb is that a household’s gross monthly income must be at (or below) 130% of the poverty line to qualify.

SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards to purchase the following food items:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Meat, poultry and fish.
  • Dairy products.
  • Breads and cereals.
  • Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.

If you live in one of the states that signed on to SNAP’s Restaurant Meals Program, you can also use your EBT card to buy hot, prepared meals at participating restaurants. Otherwise, you can’t use it to buy hot meals.

Among the other items you can’t buy with SNAP benefits are: alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, vitamins, medicines, supplements, live animals, pet foods, cleaning supplies, paper products and cosmetics.

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