June 3, 2020

Are You Eligible to Receive Food Stamps?

The food stamp program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal assistance program that allows you to purchase groceries to feed your family. Not all items found in a grocery store can be purchased with food stamps, but the following are acceptable:

  • Breads and cereals;
  • Fruits and vegetables;
  • Meats, fish and poultry;
  • Dairy products;
  • Seeds or plants that produce food.

Who can apply for Food Stamps?

Anyone can apply for the food stamp program. However, there are certain conditions regarding U.S. citizenship that must be met. The most important of these is that all who apply must presently have or apply for a United States Social Security number. Applicants must also be either a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or have qualified alien status.

food stamps program

Below is a list of qualified aliens that may receive food stamps:

  • Legal immigrants under the age 18;
  • Legal immigrants who receive disability assistance or benefits;
  • Those born on or before August 22, 1931, and who were legal residents of the U.S. on August 22, 1996;
  • Lawful permanent residents who are active duty members or veterans of the U.S. military or their spouse or a child;
  • Refugees admitted under section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA);
  • Asylees under section 208 of the INA;
  • Deportees or removal withheld under section 243(h) or 241(b)(3) of the INA;
  • Cuban or Haitian entrants under section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980;
  • Amerasian immigrants under section 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1988.

The following legal aliens are eligible to receive food stamps:

  • Hmong or Highland Laotian tribal ­members (including their spouses and children)
    who helped the U.S. military during the Vietnam era;
  • American Indians born in Canada;
  • Members of Indian tribes under section 4(e) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b(e)).

The following qualified aliens are eligible if they have lived in the U.S. for five years in qualified status:

  • Lawful permanent residents;
  • Parolees (paroled for at least one year under section 212(d)(5) of INA);
  • Conditional entrants under 203(a)(7) of INA in effect prior to April 1, 1980;
  • A battered spouse, battered child or ­parent or child of a battered person with a petition pending under 204(a)(1)(A) or (B) or 244(a)(3) of INA.

How much income can you receive and still be eligible to receive food stamps?

Income limitations for receiving benefits from the food stamp program can vary based on the size of the household and are likely to change from year to year. For an illustration of the current monthly income standards, please visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/government/FY11_Income_Standards.htm.

What other countable resources can you have and still be eligible for food stamps?

Within the food stamp program, items such as cash and bank accounts are known as countable resources.  Households may have up to $2,000 in countable resources and still receive food stamps. Should there be a person in the household over the age of 60 or disabled, households can have up to $3,000 in countable resources.

Note that certain resources are not counted. These include:

  • A home, the furniture inside, and the lot it is on;
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
  • Most retirement plans.

Vehicles are not designated as countable resources if they are:

  • Used to produce income;
  • Needed for work-related long distance travel;
  • Used as the primary home;
  • Used to transport a disabled member of the household;
  • Used to transport fuel or water;
  • If the worth of the vehicle is below $1,500.

If you own a car worth less than $4,650, it does not count as a resource. This can include:

  • One vehicle per adult in the household,
  • Additional vehicles used by a household member under age 18 to commute to work, training or school.

Can you receive food stamps if you are unemployed?

Most 18 to 60 year olds must at least be registered to work prior to receiving benefits from the food stamp program. You may even be required to participate in an employment or training program prior to receiving assistance.

Can college students receive food stamps?

Yes. Some college students are eligible to participate in the food stamp program. These students must be a participant in a work-study program, work a minimum of twenty hours per week, or be responsible for the care of a household member.

For more information on whether or not you are eligible to participate in the food stamp program, please visit: http://www.snap-step1.usda.gov/fns/.

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