The Food Stamp program, which was renamed as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008, provides needy families with a means to meet their nutritional needs. The program is run by individual states, but the minimum eligibility requirements are set by the federal government. Individual states might extend the program to include more households.
Basic Eligibility Requirements
In order to be eligible to receive SNAP benefits, you must be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the state in which you apply for the benefits. Legal Immigrants may also apply for the benefits if they have been living in the country for at least five years or are receiving disability-related assistance. Generally, children under 18 years of age may get SNAP benefits, regardless of entry date, as long as they are legal immigrants.
In order to be eligible, a household must not have countable resources in excess of $2,000, or $3,000 if at least one household member is above 60 years of age or disabled. Countable resources include bank accounts and investments but do not include your house. Vehicles may be counted as a resource depending on your state of residence.
A household must meet the income test in order to be eligible for Food Stamp benefits. In order to be eligible, the gross household income of a family must be below 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). The FPL depends on the family size. As of 2011, for a family of four, your monthly gross income must be below $2,389 in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits. Alaska and Hawaii have higher income limits.
Getting SNAP Benefits
Applications for SNAP benefits are handled at the local office; if you believe you are eligible to receive the benefits, you must contact your local SNAP office. In some states, you may be able to apply online. The amount of benefits awarded to you depends upon your net income. In recent years, the paper-based food stamps have been replaced with a card, which is credited with your benefits amount each month and may be used in grocery stores to buy basic food items.
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