A Quick Guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefits

Federal Food Assistance Programs

There are many federal food assistance programs in the US, but their main goal is the same, to stop hunger across the country. Here is a list of each program, who may qualify for them and a brief description of each:

SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – This program provides low-income families with targeted, temporary and timely benefits for groceries.
TEFAP – The Emergency Food Assistance Program – This program provides help through food banks and other emergency food providers to families in need of short-term hunger relief.
CSFP – The Commodity Supplemental Food Program – This program provides a monthly package of healthy USDA foods to low-income seniors.
CACFP – The Child and Adult Care Food Program – This program provides children and adults with nutritious meals and snacks at designated child and adult care centers.
NSLP – The National School Lunch Program – This program provides children who qualify with a nutritionally balanced lunch while at school.
SBP – The School Breakfast Program – This program provides children who qualify with a nutritionally balanced breakfast while at school.
SFSP – The Summer Food Service Program – This program provides low-income children with free meals and snacks over the summer.
WIC – Women, Infants and Children – This program provides low-income, at risk women and infants with nutritious food and educates on healthy nutrition.

What is the Difference Between SNAP and Food Stamps?

SNAP and food stamps are the same thing. In 2008, they changed the name from food stamps to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short. The program’s goal is to make healthy food, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, accessible to the people who qualify and help them maintain healthy diets.

When Did They Stop Paper Food Stamps?

When the program was renamed in 2008, paper food stamps were eliminated and became electronic instead. This was mostly due to people committing fraud by selling their paper food stamps for cash.

How Much Will I Get in SNAP?

 The amount you will receive depends on your income and family size. 

If you or your family receives no income, you qualify for the maximum amount, while individuals or families who do receive income are expected to use 30% of that income for food, while SNAP provides you with the difference after subtracting your 30% from the maximum amount for an individual or family of your size.

The maximum amount for food stamps is determined by the Department of Agriculture’s Thrify Food Plan.

How Your Snap Benefits Work

Once it is determined that you are eligible for SNAP, you will receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer card (or EBT card), where your benefits shall be transferred to you each month.

Your EBT card can be used at any authorized retailers and food stores. You will have access to your account online to check your card balance and status.

What is Covered Under SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP only covers food and plants or seeds that grow food that you may eat.

Items such as alcohol, tobacco, vitamins and supplements are not covered, as well as non-food items, such as toilet paper, pet food, household and hygiene supplies, etc.

How Long Can You be on SNAP?

If you have children or dependents living with you, or are under 18 years old or older than 50, there are no limits to how long you may be on SNAP benefits.

If you’re an able-bodied, single adult who isn’t pregnant and has no dependents, you may only receive SNAP benefits for 3 months in a 3 year period.

SNAP/Food Stamps Eligibility

How and Where to Apply for Food Stamps (SNAP)

There are a few ways on how and where to apply for food stamps. If you would like to apply in person you may visit your local SNAP office. To find a SNAP office near you, click HERE and we will redirect you to the US Department of Agriculture’s State directory.

Once the page loads you will see a map. Simply choose your state and you will get a list of offices near you along with their contact information. You can also find their web page, if they have one, where you may apply online. Most states also have a SNAP information hotline where you may call, toll free, and apply via telephone.

Once you find your local SNAP office, verify which documents they require, since each state may have their own way of doing things. The documents that are required no matter where you apply are:

  • Proof of Identity – Such as driver’s license, birth certificate, passport or Social Security card.
  • Proof of Residency – Such as a utility bill, driver’s license (if it has the correct address) or tax returns.
  • Social Security number – This will be required for every member of your family that will be applying to the SNAP program.

If you or someone in your family that will also be applying for SNAP receives income, you may be required to present whichever of the following that apply:

  • Income earned – Such as a letter from your employer or pay stubs going back 4 weeks that show your earnings before taxes.
  • Other income – Such as Unemployment, Social Security payments, workers compensation, child support and/or pension.
  • Rental Income – If you are renting a room or apartment and are paid rent, you must present a copy of the lease agreement or a statement from your tenant that shows the amount paid to you.
  • Self-employment income – They require your business records from the last three months or your most recent tax returns.
  • Assets – you may be required to present asset information, for elderly or disabled households.

There are some documents you can submit that may help you receive SNAP benefits or increment the amount you will receive. These documents are:

  • Rent costs – You may submit a letter from your landlord, a receipt of your rent or a copy of your current lease.
  • Homeowner cost – You may submit proof of property taxes, your homeowners insurance or a mortgage statement.
  • Medical expenses – This option is only for people who are disabled, over 60 years old or both, and receive disability-based benefits. You may submit evidence such as health insurance payments, receipts of co-payments, over the counter or prescription medicine, and transportation expenses due to doctors appointments.
  • Utility expenses – You may submit bills such as your electric, telephone, gas, water and air/heat conditioning bills.
  • Child or adult care expenses – Cost of care, fees and transportation to and from the location (if being cared for out of the home)
  • Child Support payments – You may submit proof of any court ordered payments.
  • Non-citizen status – If you or someone in your family that is part of your application is a non-citizen, must present proof such as a “green card” or immigration papers.

How Long Does it Take to be Approved for Food Stamps?

After the SNAP office receives your application and determines you qualify, you should receive your benefits within 30 days.

For people that need help right away, you may receive emergency SNAP benefits which can be available to you in no more than 7 days.

What is the Income Limit to Qualify for Food Stamps?

If you or someone in your household is elderly or disabled, you must meet SNAP’s net income limit, while households with no elderly or disabled members must meet both net and gross income limits. SNAP evaluates and sets income limits each year. We have added SNAP’s official income eligibility limits effective October 1st, 2020 through September 30th 2021:

 (***This chart is for all 48 states, excluding Hawaii and Alaska which have higher net and gross income limits***) 
Household Size Gross monthly income

(130 percent of poverty)

Net monthly income

(100 percent of poverty; test for SNAP households with elderly and disabled members)

1 $1,383 $ 1,064
2 $1,868 $1,437
3 $2,353 $1,810
4 $2,839 $2,184
5 $3,324 $2,557
6 $3,809 $2,930
7 $4,295 $3,304
8 $4,780 $3,677
Each additional member +$486 +$374

Why Have I Not Received my SNAP Card?

Once you are approved to receive SNAP benefits, you should receive your SNAP card in the mail within 30 days.

If 30 days have gone by and you still haven’t received your SNAP card, you must contact your state’s SNAP office or call their help line 1-888-328-6399. Once requesting a new card over the phone, you should receive one in the next 7 – 10 days.

Why Did my SNAP Benefits Go Down?

Unfortunately, SNAP benefits may go down when states reduce their funding, when eligibility requirements change, or when you have changes in your income or household.

Normally, when the Department of Agriculture has to make cuts, they’re only made to single, able-bodied individuals between 18 – 49 years old that can work.

People that are disabled, senior citizens, have minor dependents, pregnant women or have mental illness are usually exempt from cuts in SNAP benefits.

What is Emergency SNAP?

Emergency SNAP or “Expedited SNAP” are SNAP benefits that are given to people in immediate need of help, because their income is too low or zero. Emergency SNAP must be provided within 7 days, once approved.

Can I Get Emergency SNAP?

If your income is low enough and you have little to no savings, you may qualify for emergency SNAP.

What Do I Have to Do to Get Emergency SNAP?

To get emergency SNAP benefits, you must simply apply for SNAP.

If you would like to receive emergency SNAP benefits, it’s recommendable to apply for SNAP in person and talk to a representative about your situation.

Disaster SNAP Benefits

The Disaster SNAP program, also known as D-SNAP, is a program dedicated to replacing food to SNAP beneficiaries when they’ve been lost or damaged due to a disaster.

This program also covers families who are not SNAP beneficiaries or who aren’t normally eligible, in a disaster situation. D-SNAP benefits are granted electronically, via a D-SNAP card, similar to a regular SNAP card.

Does Social Security Income Affect Food Stamps?

Social Security Income is considered when applying for SNAP benefits.

Most states include a SNAP application when you apply for Social Security, because most Social Security recipients are deemed “categorically eligible”, which means you may automatically be eligible to receive SNAP benefits. It’s important that you contact your local SNAP office to verify if you’re eligible.

Do Cash Gifts Affect Food Stamps?

You may receive a cash gift from family or a friend, but the cash must be for a specific use and listed as such.


If this month your uncle gives you $300 to buy tires for your car, SNAP won’t count it as income, as long as you present proof that you used the $300 for the tires. “One-time” gifts, that don’t surpass $30 in a 3-month period, or money paid directly to your landlord or utility bill are not considered gifts.

Anything in cash, above $30, given directly to you, without a specific motive, may affect your SNAP benefit amount.

Do Food Stamps Affect my Taxes?

No, SNAP/Food Stamps do not affect your taxes because they’re not counted as taxable income. In addition, tax refunds don’t affect your eligibility or benefit amount either.

Can I Get SNAP if I Have Savings?

SNAP qualifications have changed and you are now able to have savings, stocks and retirement accounts without affecting your eligibility.

This is due to the elimination of the saving/resource test that was previously conducted to determine eligibility. Keep in mind that if you qualify for SNAP, you may still be required to provide information regarding these resources.

If someone in your household has been disqualified from SNAP or has been sanctioned, you WILL have to undergo the resource test and your household’s countable assets must not exceed $2,250.   

What is the Difference Between SNAP and WIC?

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food benefits to people of all ages, while WIC stands for the Women, Infants and Children program which has more exclusive eligibility requirements due to it catering specifically to low-income women, children and infants.

What is the Difference Between EBT and SNAP?

EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a card very similar to a debit card, provided to you by SNAP to electronically transfer your benefits to you each month. With the EBT card you may go to any authorized store and purchase foods.

How do I Re-Apply for Food Stamps? – (Food Stamps Recertification)

To continue receiving SNAP benefits, you must re-apply every year. You may fill out your re-application online or in person, but once your re-application is submitted you will need to schedule an appointment to review your application with a case worker. To make an appointment, contact your state’s SNAP office and ask for their process to schedule an appointment, since it may vary from state to state.