How to Qualify for Food Stamps

Wondering how to qualify for food stamps? The government has renamed the food stamp benefits program to "SNAP," which stands for "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program." The government has updated SNAP to reflect current nutritional and economic considerations, including how people can qualify.

Income.
The income requirements to qualify for SNAP are extensive, and there are exceptions for a number of factors. Depending on the household, you must typically meet both gross income requirements and net income requirements. The income requirements vary based on household size, whether or not any of the members of the household are elderly or disabled and currently receiving other assistance, and permitted deductions.

If a household meets the gross but not net, or vice versa, it is probably not eligible for food stamp assistance. Your income cannot be higher than the incomes listed in both the gross and net guidelines; if your income is too high, you probably aren't eligible. However, many factors can alter eligibility, so it's worthwhile to consult the USDA SNAP website for the current requirements, or contact your local office.

Resources.
In addition to having a limited income, your household must have limited resources in order to qualify for SNAP. Resources may include your vehicle, any stocks and bonds that you own, your retirement account or cash you might have in a savings or checking account. Resources do not include your home or your personal belongings. If your resources exceed the allotted limit-typically $2,000 unless a member of the household is elderly or disabled-you probably don't qualify for SNAP benefits.

Employment requirements.
Food stamp recipients are subject to employment qualifications and requirements. If you are currently employed, you'll have to produce pay stubs or a letter from your employer detailing your gross and net income. If you're unemployed, your eligibility for SNAP benefits depends on whether or not you are searching for a job, and your willingness to accept suitable employment placement opportunities and retraining. If you do not participate in job search opportunities, you're eligible to receive no more than three months of benefits in a three-year period.

The elderly, disabled and immigrants have special requirements.
Standard food stamps are mostly given only to able-bodied adults. Disabled or elderly persons have different sets of requirements, and they are generally able to get SNAP benefits easier. However, the requirements for the disabled and elderly can get quite complex, so consult your local office if you're not sure whether you qualify. Immigrants can also qualify, depending on their status, so it's worthwhile to check with the local office to see whether or not you can qualify for food stamp assistance.

Check online to see whether you might qualify.
If you want to get an idea of whether or not you might qualify before you fill out an application or go to the local office and wait in line to talk to someone, you can use an online worksheet, called the SNAP Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool, to check your status. An online worksheet asks for your income information, assets, expenses and household information. Once you've input your situation, it can tell you whether or not you might be eligible. The worksheet is not an application, and you must still submit an application or check with the local office if you have any questions.

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