Who Qualifies for Food Stamps?


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, provides monthly food benefits to low-income households. The United States Department of Agriculture oversees the program while local state offices handle the day-to-day management tasks.

SNAP Eligibility Requirements

  • To apply for SNAP benefits, an individual or head of household completes an evaluation with a Department of Health and Human Resources worker. The worker gathers information about the household's income, current assets, work status and cost of living. Details about family members, such as ages and citizenship, are also obtained.

    Proof of income and household expenses must be provided.

Income and Deductions

  • Gross household income (before taxes) must fall at or below 130 percent of the current federally named poverty level. As of 2009, a single person may earn $1,174 per month while a family of four may earn $2,389.

    According to SNAP rules, subtracting certain allowable deductions determines a household's net income. In most states, the net income may not exceed 100 percent of the poverty level for the family size.

    Along with a deduction of 20 percent of household income, allowed deductions ordinarily include a standard utility deduction, child care expenses, medical expenses for disabled or elderly family members, child support payments, and some shelter expenses.

Assets and Resources

  • SNAP households may not have more than $2,000 in valuable resources. Some assets, such as the family's house, are not counted toward this amount. In most cases, the value of one licensed vehicle is excluded from the asset limit. Any additional vehicles owned by household members do count.

    Families in which at least one person is disabled or aged 60 or older may have up to $3,000 in assets.

Work Requirements

  • Able-bodied adults, from 18 to 50 years old, who do not have dependent children living at home and do not work are usually limited to three months of food stamp benefits in every 36-month period. In some locations or circumstances, exceptions are made to this rule.

    States can provide work activities to help low-income adults meet the work requirement.

Eligible Immigrant Households

  • According to the USDA website, legal immigrants may receive SNAP benefits if they have lived in the United States for five years or receive federal or state disability benefits. All eligible immigrant children may receive SNAP regardless of when they entered the United States.

    Anyone who is not a citizen, yet is temporarily living in the country, such as university students, cannot receive SNAP benefits.

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