The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program, but it’s operated and administered at the state level.
SNAP provides low-income households with monthly benefits that can be used to purchase eligible food items. Benefits are deposited into SNAP accounts, which are linked to EBT cards. SNAP EBT cards can be used at most grocery stores and approved retailers. At checkout, swipe your card at the card reader like you would with a debit or credit card and enter your PIN. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to buy food online at select retailers using your EBT card.
To receive SNAP benefits, you must apply in the state where you live. Eligibility requirements also vary by state, but most require recipients to fall below certain income and asset levels. To apply, contact your state’s SNAP agency. You can also fill out an application online or print, mail or fax the SNAP application to your local SNAP office.
Benefit periods for SNAP can range from one month to three years, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), depending on your case and your state’s specific requirements. Once approved, the Food and Nutrition Service will send you a notice of how long you will receive SNAP benefits. SNAP benefits may also expire if you don’t use your EBT card for nine months or longer. To avoid any interruptions in your benefits, the NCOA says you’ll need to periodically recertify to prove your eligibility.
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