Food stamps — now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — are a national assistance program intended to provide low-income families and individuals with the cash to buy healthy food. Eligibility guidelines are set by the federal government and calculated on national income data, though through the state application process, Michigan Department of Human Services caseworkers decide who is eligible.
The main factor in eligibility is income. Application materials ask for monthly income information, as SNAP benefits are given monthly. Eligible households and individuals must make less than 130 percent of the poverty rate, which for fiscal year 2010-2011 was $1,174 (before taxes) for one person, $1,579 for two people and $2,389 for a family of four. Michigan Food Assistance Partnership has a benefits calculator with which you can see if you are eligible and estimate your SNAP allotment (see Resources).
Other assets and resources available to the applicant are taken into account when applying for SNAP. Cars (not used for work), money in checking and savings accounts and sometimes other assets such as bonds and stocks should be reported to the DHS. Likewise, if any member of the household is receiving disability or Social Security, this should also be reported on the application as expanded benefits are available.
Michigan considers any group of people living together and sharing costs to be a “food assistance group.” Any food assistance group should fill out a single application, even if the group is two single and unrelated roommates. Generally, individuals, couples and families apply, but roommates can also apply.
Once your monthly income and resources have been added up (this number is called your “gross income”), the DHS may subtract a 20 percent earned-income deduction, standard deduction, dependent care costs, child support, medical costs for elderly and disabled, and rent or other shelter costs if more than half of your monthly income. The more the DHS deducts from your gross income, the higher your SNAP allotment will be.
After deductions, the DHS has your “net income” number, from which it calculates SNAP benefits. Net income (2010-2011 fiscal year) must be under $903 for one person, $1,215 for two and $1,838 for four to meet SNAP eligibility requirements. The DHS takes 30 percent of your net income, deducts that amount from the maximum allotment (based on the number of people in a household) and the resulting number is your monthly SNAP benefit.
- Food and Nutrition Service: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Eligibility
- Department of Human Services: Food Assistance Program Overview
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Unemployment rate rises to record high 14.7 percent in April 2020." Accessed June 25, 2020.
- U.S. Department of the Treasury. "The CARES Act Provides Assistance to Workers and their Families." Accessed June 25, 2020.
- U.S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Relief During COVID-19 Outbreak." Accessed June 25, 2020.
- Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. "SNAP Eligibility." Accessed June 25, 2020.
- Food and Nutrition Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. "About WIC - WIC at a Glance." Accessed June 25, 2020.
- USA.gov. "Food Assistance." Accessed June 25, 2020.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.