When an individual or household falls on hard times, the federal government sometimes offers assistance in the form of housing vouchers, supplemental income or food stamps. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, is designed so that low-income families can purchase food. In order to qualify for these benefits, applicants need to show that they are suffering from significant financial hardship.
Definition of Financial Hardship
In order to qualify for the food stamp program, applicants must meet both a resource limit and an income limit. As long as the applicants' current household income and resources fall beneath these required limits, they will be eligible to receive benefits. It is not necessary to show that anyone in the household has lost employment or income, and you can be employed while receiving food stamps, as long as your income does not surpass the income threshold.
Households applying for food stamps must meet an income limit. Income limits vary based on the number of people in the household and are generally adjusted annually for inflation. If someone in your household is disabled or over the age of 60, you may be able to exclude some of your income from the application. For instance, in 2018, a family of 4 – with no members over 60 or disabled – can have a household net monthly income of $2,050 per month in 48 states as well as the District of Columbia. Alaska and Hawaii, however, have higher limits. In Alaska, the income limit for a family of four is $2,563, while a family of four in Hawaii can earn up to $2,358 in net monthly income before becoming ineligible for benefits.
Households applying for food stamps must also meet a resource limit. Resources include bank accounts, property and cash. You do not need to include your home or the land it occupies when you report your resources. However, it is possible you may need to include your vehicles, depending on the regulations in your state. Some states, like Alabama, exclude the value of all vehicles from your resources, while others such as Illinois exclude one vehicle per adult in the household. But, in some states like Colorado, you can exclude only one vehicle per household. The typical resource limit is $2,250, though this limit may be increased to $3,500 if a member of your household is disabled or over 60 years of age.
All applicants must present a valid form of identification such as a birth certificate or driver's license. Applicants must also provide proof of income for all members of their household. Documents that prove income include Social Security checks, pension checks and pay stubs. It may also be helpful to show proof of childcare expenses, rent or mortgage payments, utility bills and medical bills. However, when you lose income, you need to show proof of this as well. A benefits termination letter (like from SSI) or a pink slip from your job is proof enough of loss of income for food stamp eligibility.
- Social Security Online: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Facts
- USDA Food & Nutrition Service: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- USDA Food & Nutrition Service: SNAP – Fiscal Year 2018 Cost -of-Living Adjustments
- USDA Food & Nutrition Service: States' Vehicle Asset Policies in SNAP
Amanda McMullen is a freelancer who has been writing professionally since 2010. She holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and statistics and a second bachelor's degree in integrated mathematics education.