Food Stamps Program & Benefits Guide

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, offers monthly food benefits to participants with benefit amounts that are based upon household size and household income. Food stamp benefits are available to qualifying low-income households and individuals in order to assist in ensuring that everyone has enough nutritious food, even when it cannot be afforded. Eligibility for the SNAP program is based upon several factors, including income- and work-related requirements. 

Food stamps can be used to purchase most food items, however, there are items that cannot be purchased using SNAP benefits and location that do not accept food stamps for a transaction. Benefits are distributed the same day each month that a person remains eligible. Beneficiaries will continue to receive SNAP benefits until a renewal must be completed in order to determine continued eligibility. If a beneficiary remains eligible, they can continue to receive SNAP benefits until the next eligibility review. 

About Food Stamps

In order to be eligible for food stamps, you must be a U.S. citizen or hold a qualifying non-citizen status. SNAP benefits can only be offered to those who meet income- and resource-related qualifications. Income limits are based upon household sizes with larger limits awarded to larger households. Not only does income determine eligibility for SNAP, but also the amount of SNAP benefits that a household can receive each month. 

When determining eligibility and calculating benefits, the SNAP program will automatically apply several deductions to an individual’s or household’s gross income, including a 20 percent deduction, a standard deduction that is based upon household size and excess shelter costs. Shelter costs may include rent, mortgage payments and applicable utility bills. In some states, a set amount is issued for utility costs instead of actual costs. 

SNAP supports work. Work-related eligibility qualifications require SNAP participants to either work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week. However, there are some special groups that are exempt from this requirement, including children, senior citizens, pregnant women and disabled persons. If you are not exempt from work-related qualifications, you must meet these requirements if you wish to receive SNAP benefits for more than a three-month period within 36 months.

Learn About SNAP Benefits

Food stamps can never be used towards the purchase of nonfood items, live animals, hot prepared foods intended for immediate consumption, vitamins, medicines, liquor or tobacco. SNAP benefits can be used towards the purchase of qualifying food items, including but not limited to: 

  • Frozen, fresh or canned fruits and vegetables. 
  • Meat, poultry and fish. 
  • Dairy products. 
  • Cereals and breads. 
  • Snack items. 
  • Food-producing seeds and plants. 

Once you have been found to be eligible for SNAP, you will receive benefits within 30 days from your original application date. If you are considered to be of very low income (or if you have no income), you may qualify to receive benefits within seven days of your application date. 

SNAP benefits are provided to participants through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This plastic card can be used like a debit card at qualifying registers, such as registers within grocery stores and supermarkets. In some states, benefits can also be used at participating farmer’s markets. 

Food stamps are deposited on a participant’s EBT card on the same day each month. The day that benefits are transferred is determined by the state but is generally based upon the letters within the applicant’s name or their Social Security Number. 

Now that you’ve downloaded our comprehensive guide, you will gain access to a wealth of information that has been consolidated by our experts in order to further your understanding of the programs that may be available to you. This information will be shared with you over the next few days, so make sure that you watch your inbox. In the meantime, the sections that have been provided below will provide you with further information about other discounted services that you may qualify for and how to obtain affordable health insurance. 

Learn About Discounted Services That Might Be Available to You

Cheap cable and internet options are available to qualifying low-income households. Several providers offer their own low-income discounted programs that provide monthly or annual discounts on internet and cable bills. Additionally, you can receive assistance from Lifeline, a federal program, towards the cost of your internet bill if you meet income-related requirements. You will automatically qualify if you are already receiving benefits from an income-based federal or state program, such as Medicaid, SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 

If searching for cheap cable TV or low income, it is important to review your channel lineup, often referred to as a “package”, in order to determine whether or not you could downgrade your package to save more money. You can also look at any additional services that you are subscribed to, such as premium channels or DVR services in order to further cut costs. 

Low income car insurance programs are uncommon however, there are ways that you may be able to reduce your insurance bill. It is important to review your coverage amounts as you may be subscribed to a larger insurance amount than what you may need. You can also review several optional benefits that may be a part of your current policy, such as rental assistance or roadside assistance. Experts also recommend that you speak with your insurance agency in order to determine whether or not there are any additional discounts that you may qualify for, such as a safe driving discount, multi-policy discount or a defensive driving course discount. 

Low income home loans are more obtainable than you might think. Government loan programs offer low-income households the opportunity to purchase a home at a reduced income and credit score related eligibility requirements as well as eliminate or reduce down-payment requirements. Federal loan programs that can assist low-income families and households in the purchase of a home include FHA loans, USDA loans and VA loans. 

Learn About Government Grants

It is a myth that government grants are offered directly to low-income citizens and households. Rather, government grants are provided to state and local organizations that offer assistance to low-income communities through several outreach programs. These programs may include one-time financial assistance or may offer food, shelter or other household items to qualifying applicants. 

While government grants are not provided to households with low income, there are several federal and state assistance programs that can aid households in reducing the cost of monthly expenses towards food, shelter, utility bills, medical bills and more. Each program has its own eligibility requirements, including an income limit, as well as small differences of each program between states.  

You may find additional programs offered within your local area. If you are part of a low-income household, it is worth taking the time to review federal and state assistance programs such as: 

  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). 
  • The Housing Choice Voucher Program (also referred to as Section 8 housing). 
  • Medicaid. 

If you are currently applying for SNAP, you may be able to receive additional food assistance through local food banks as well as other community-based outreach programs. Local food banks provide free, nutritious meals to low-income households on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. 

For a complete list of low-income state and community assistance programs, you should contact your local Department of Health and Human Services. These offices will likely have a complete list of assistance programs within a local area as well as be able to provide additional resources for state and federal programs. 

If you are in need of emergency housing assistance, contact your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) in order to determine whether or not you qualify for assistance. Your PHA can also refer you to additional resources, including outreach programs within your local area. 

Learn About Affordable Health Insurance

There are several cheap health insurance options that may be available to you, including Medicaid, Medicare and private health insurance options on HealthCare.gov. 

Medicaid is a government health insurance program that provides coverage to millions of low-income Americans each year. Through the Medicaid program, participants receive health insurance coverage and access to affordable healthcare at little to no cost. Under the Medicaid program, several medical services are required to be included within state programs, including hospital services, visits with physicians and laboratory services. In addition to federally mandated services, states can choose to offer coverage for “optional” services, such as dental and vision care. 

Medicare is a cheap health insurance option for qualifying senior citizens and disabled persons. There are several “parts” of Medicare, each offering additional service coverage options, which participants can choose to enroll in. Medicare Part A, which provides hospital insurance, is free to most Medicare beneficiaries. Additional parts of Medicare are available to participants at a fee, which can vary based upon income. Medicare enrollees may also qualify for Medicaid if they are of low income, which can reduce or eliminate their cost towards their Medicare health insurance. 

You can review health insurance quotes online at HealthCare.gov. When enrolling, you will be asked for your personal information, including your Social Security Number, filing status and income. The health insurance options that are available to you will depend on the information you provide. If you are of low income, you may qualify for credits that can reduce health insurance premiums. 

You will also be informed if, based upon your information, you might be eligible to receive benefits from a federal or state program, such as Medicaid or Medicare. If you may qualify, you will be referred to your local Medicaid or Medicare office and the HealthCare.gov website will automatically forward your information to your local office.


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