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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

After the COVID-19 pandemic brought a majority of U.S. households into financial difficulty, it is no surprise that more people need additional support — especially due to the lack of food security. In fact, USDA’s 2021 report states that 34 million people, of which nine million are children, are food insecure.

Fortunately, Congress and the USDA increased food support for American families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP or the Food Stamp program. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, SNAP eligibility and benefits were modified to extend its reach to more people.

Learn more about one of the best government food assistance programs and how it can benefit you.

What Is SNAP

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that seeks to help working families, low-income elderly, disabled people, and other low-paid individuals get the nutritional support they need.

SNAP is the most responsive federal program, especially during major economic downturns. This government assistance program pays the full cost of the benefits people receive, but they share the administrative costs with the states that host the program.

The operation extends across all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. However, SNAP does not support American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Who Is Eligible For SNAP

To qualify for SNAP benefits, your household must meet the following criteria:

1. Gross Monthly Income

Before any deductions, your household income must be equal to or below 130% of the poverty line. For instance, a three-member family must have a 2023 fiscal year income of $2,495 a month or below. This amount goes lower for smaller families and higher for larger families.

2. Net Income

The income your household has after deductions must be equal to or below the poverty line. For instance, the amount for 2023 is $1,920 a month for a three-person household.

In this context, income is defined as earnings from all sources — earned income before taxes, cash assistance, child support, unemployment insurance, and Social Security.

3. Assets

SNAP also sets limits on the assets you own. Households without a senior adult or disabled members must have $2,750 or less, while those with members under these conditions must have assets amounting to $4,250 or less.

In this context, assets is the term covering all resources available at the household that you can use to purchase food. It does not extend to unavailable items like property and a person’s retirement savings.

Who Is Not Eligible

Regardless of their income or assets, these people cannot qualify for SNAP:

  • Individuals on strike
  • Some immigrants
  • People without documented immigration status
  • Students in college 

Additionally, unemployed adults from 18 to 49 years old without any form of disability have an imposed three-month limit per three years on receiving SNAP benefits.

How To Apply For SNAP

Though SNAP is a federal program, the application process for eligibility qualification varies per state. Generally, people can complete the application online, mail their applications, or process it in person at their local SNAP office.

Aside from the forms, applicants must be prepared for an interview that may be done via phone or in person. Here, they may be required to provide proof of their identity, immigration status, income, expenses, household composition, and more.

Once found eligible, they will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that will serve as their access to their monthly SNAP benefits. These cards can be used in more than 254,000 retail partners, like supermarkets or superstores.

However, SNAP beneficiaries must remember not to purchase cigarettes, alcohol, supplements, and non-food items using their EBT cards. Moreover, should they receive a significant increase in their income, SNAP beneficiaries must also report the change to their local SNAP office.

Alternatives To SNAP

If you find yourself ineligible for the SNAP benefits, you can also consider other national-level programs set by the government to combat hunger.

Older Americans Act (OAA) Nutrition Program

The OAA Nutrition Program aims to provide grants focused on supporting the nutritional needs of senior adults all across the country. These programs administer healthy meals in group settings to encourage healthy eating and socialization in older adults.

Child and Adult Care Food Program

The Child and Adult Care Food Program allows parents and guardians to reimburse their spending for nutritious meals and snacks for adults and children in participating daycare homes, child care centers, and adult care centers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you apply, here are the frequently asked questions about SNAP that other applicants are asking:

What happens when I apply for SNAP?

In most cases, you will receive a notification within 30 days if you are eligible to receive SNAP or not. Sometimes, you will be asked to provide more documents and meet additional requirements. Should the results be favorable, you can receive your SNAP benefits within seven days.

How long can I receive SNAP benefits?

If you get accepted into the SNAP beneficiary program, you will be informed of your certification period. Here, you will see how long you will receive benefits. As time gets closer to its end, you will also be reminded to recertify to continue receiving benefits.

Are there work requirements to receive SNAP?

In order to enjoy SNAP benefits, you must meet at least one of the following qualifications:

Register for work, participate in employment training programs, take a job when offered, not reduce your work hours, not quit your job.

Get The Assistance You Need From SNAP

SNAP is one of the most rigorous and efficient programs launched by the federal government to address poverty and hunger in the United States. If you need help understanding how SNAP works, your eligibility, and how you can apply, you can contact your state agency, visit their office, or call their SNAP Information hotline.

If you find you’re ineligible to apply for SNAP, this is not the end of the road. Consider applying for other charities that help low-income families — check out Gov Relations’ blog to get you started!

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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