Here’s How to Apply for Food Aid
For millions of Americans, the coronavirus pandemic is causing grave financial hardships; in late March, the number of jobless claims soared past 3.3 million, the most in history.
In these trying times, it’s important to stay safe and healthy—which means staying well feed. Across the U.S., many are turning to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” to meet their nutritional needs.
Here’s how to apply.
What items does SNAP cover?
- SNAP benefits can be used to purchase all food products except: beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, vitamins, medicines, and hot foods.
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the full list of available food.
So they’re, like, stamps?
- Not anymore. SNAP benefits are placed on an EBT card, which resembles a colorful credit card or gift card. Card designs vary by state. During checkout, you swipe your card and enter your PIN.
How much do I receive?
- It depends on the number of people living in your house. On average, individuals receive about $165 in monthly SNAP benefits.
When do I receive the benefits?
SNAP funds are deposited on the EBT card once a month, though the date-of-delivery varies by person. You may receive yours on the first or fifteenth of the month. During the coronavirus outbreak, some states are working to deliver the benefits early.
Here, for example, is Utah’s timetable:
- A - G available on the 5th
- H - O available on the 11th
- P - Z available on the 15th
Who accepts EBT cards?
- Most places that accept SNAP have this sign in their window:
- Use the USDA’s Locate Snap Retailers site.
How can I check my balance?
There’s a number on the back. But, having been on SNAP, I can tell you it’s a pain. To ease the process, I highly recommend this app:
Fresh EBT makes it easy and secure to check your food stamp balance on your phone.
It also lets you clip coupons and find jobs.
Check if you’re eligible
- Eligibility is based primarily on household income and certain expenses.
- SNAP is run by states. To check the requirements for yours, head over here.
- A quick Google search of “SNAP benefits [my state]” will also get you to the site you need.
What information will I need to apply?
Eligibility is based primarily on household income and certain expenses.
What you may need for all individuals for whom you are applying:
- Social Security number and date of birth.
- Income information such as job, child support, or any other sources.
- Resources information: checking and savings accounts, vehicles, homes, property, life insurance.
- Housing expenses such as rent or utilities.
Do I need to go in for an interview?
- The USDA is allowing states to conduct telephone interviews instead of face-to face-interviews for SNAP Quality Control purposes in March, April, and May 2020.
Do I need to be working to apply for SNAP?
- Not at the moment.
- The Trump administration had planned to remove 700,000 low-income Americans from the SNAP program beginning April 1. A rule change would have required able-bodied adults without Dependents (ABAWD) to work at least 20 hours a week to become eligible for SNAP. The change would not have applied to children, their parents, those over 50, those with a disability, or pregnant women.
- However, in early March, a federal judge blocked the Trump administration rule change from going into effect during the coronavirus crisis.
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law on March 18, 2020, temporarily and partially suspends the time limit for ABAWD participation in SNAP.
I am not a U.S. Citizen. Can I apply for SNAP?
- SNAP is not open to undocumented immigrants.
- Numerous non-citizens are eligible with no waiting period.
- Lawful permanent residents (LPR) – sometimes referred to as “green card holders” – can access SNAP benefits after residing in the U.S. for five years or who has earned 40 quarters of work.
Changes during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Many states are modifying or extending their SNAP benefits.
- Missouri’s Department of Social Services Family Support Division, for example, is extending its SNAP certification periods by six months. This prevents benefits from ending during the COVID-19 pandemic and also waives all work requirements for ABAWD.
- Your state’s SNAP benefits page will inform you of any changes.
- Some states are also working to allow for SNAP recipients to use their benefits to buy hot meals at restaurants.
— Josh Herman
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