SNAP: A Helpful Food Assistance Option

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Food is one of the most crucial aspects of survival. Yet, during rough times when someone is struggling with paying their bills, it can become difficult to set some money aside for groceries. Sadly, many American citizens tend to prioritize their housing expenses and other bills. This can lead them to compromise on purchasing the food they need. This is exactly why the government offers nutrition aid through programs that provide assistance to those who really need it. One of the most useful federal assistance programs is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

What to Know About SNAP

You might have heard about SNAP before because it’s widely known as food stamps. The idea behind this program is to provide much needed nutritional support to low-income households. However, these households must be deemed eligible to receive assistance. SNAP aids a diverse range of citizens. However, most of the support goes to families with children.

As a recipient, once you are deemed eligible for SNAP assistance, you are provided with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. You will receive money through this card on a monthly basis. This money can be used to buy the products that you need, as long as the items qualify. However, you can only use your EBT cards at places that accept them as a form of payment.

Eligibility for SNAP

The recipients of this program appreciate SNAP support. They don’t have to deal with the stress that comes with worrying about having enough money for groceries. Generally, the eligibility criteria and benefit levels used for this program are standard across the country. However, your state is allowed to change parts of the program because they are the ones who manage it.

To confirm your eligibility, you will need to contact your state agency. Only through them can you know whether you qualify as a recipient of SNAP aid or not. This is done through submitting an application. Keep in mind that the application for SNAP is completely free of charge. The good thing about this program is that if you do get approved, you will be eligible to receive benefits starting from the date when your application was submitted. To get the most out of this program, you will need to apply as soon as you can. Although the final call is made by the state when it comes to eligibility, there is a prioritization process they follow. This process gives priority to those who need urgent assistance. This includes extremely low-income households, which are given a higher priority than low-income households.

Be Mindful That…

It’s important not to assume that your application will be rejected or that you will be deemed ineligible. This is a common misconception that can lead you to miss out on a beneficial opportunity. Most college students, some legal immigrants, and those on strike due to a labor dispute can be denied assistance no matter what their income level is. However, this does not apply to everyone. Even if you think you might be rejected, the application is free, so you should still give it a shot. You might be lucky and get approved. Besides, the worst-case scenario is that you will be deemed ineligible, and that’s it.

Restrictions for SNAP

Most federal assistance programs come with a set of restrictions that limit the benefits that a household can receive. Nonetheless, every household is different and it’s better to get in touch with a professional to confirm your status. One of the restrictions of this program is that most adults who don’t have any children can only receive three months of benefits (but there are exceptions to this!). States can also add their own set of guidelines, work requirements, limitations, and more.

The Amount of Assistance You Can Receive From SNAP

Your SNAP benefits are also known as your allotment. How are benefits calculated? They are calculated by setting aside 30% of a recipient’s income for purchasing food. If you want to learn more about this, you can always check the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) table. It gives more insight into the maximum amount that a household can receive in benefits:

How You Can Apply for SNAP Benefits

As previously mentioned, the application processes are different in each state. You need to apply for SNAP benefits in the state in which you currently reside. To begin your application process, you will need to contact your state agency. Luckily for you, there are many ways to go about this. Here is what you can do:

  • Contact your local SNAP office and pay them a visit
  • Visit your state agency’s website
  • Contact your state’s SNAP by calling their toll-free number

As each state is different from the others when it comes to SNAP, some states may require an online application. It is essential to make sure to learn about the available options in your state before you start.

Usually, you will receive an answer on whether you are qualified or not within 30 days of submitting your application. During the time when your application is being processed, you will be asked to do an eligibility interview. You will also be asked to provide proof of income. This is to make sure that all the details on your application are precise.

Luckily for some people, there is a possibility to receive benefits before the 30-day waiting time. There are some cases where people had the opportunity of receiving their SNAP aid within only seven days of their application date. This is done when the applicant successfully passes other eligibility criteria.

What Can You Get Using SNAP Benefits?

Just like most support programs, there are limitations on what SNAP benefit funds can purchase. Here is a list of grocery essentials that you can get:

  • Meat
  • Seeds and/or plants that produce food for the household to eat
  • Poultry
  • Non-alcoholic drinks
  • Fish
  • Snacks
  • Fruits
  • Cereal
  • Vegetables
  • Bread
  • Dairy products
  • Other foods similar to the ones mentioned above

That being said, there is also a list of items that cannot be purchased using SNAP funds:

  • Non-food items
  • Alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, liquor
  • Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered before store pick-up)
  • Tobacco products like cigarettes
  • Supplements
  • Vitamins
  • Medicines

Wrapping Up

Just like other programs that help those who are going through financial hardship, SNAP is a great opportunity to receive assistance. It is a program that is established and funded by the federal government. However, it is managed by the state. Applying for the program is very easy: all you need to do is get in touch with your state’s agency. You will receive a response  in about 30 days. Once you are deemed eligible, you are provided with funds through your Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. You can expect the card to be automatically refilled every month until the duration in which you receive benefits is over. In case you have any more questions or inquiries, make sure to contact your state’s agency.