(ModernSurvival.org) – Food insecurity is a major issue in America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), roughly 13.5 million households lacked food security in 2021. Thankfully, options are available to help low-income American families in need put food on the table. One such program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides nutrition benefits to qualifying applicants.
What is SNAP?
Formerly known as the food stamp program, SNAP gives families financial assistance to purchase groceries. Beneficiaries receive a debit card which they can use to purchase approved products from approved locations.
SNAP is only available to low-income households that don’t exceed specific asset requirements. Everyone within the home who eats and prepares meals together is considered a part of the household in this program.
The SNAP program defines income as the money earned or received by any family member within the household through the following avenues:
- Unemployment benefits
- Government welfare programs
- Disability programs
- Child support payments
Qualifying households’ gross income must meet or fall below 130% of the poverty line. The household’s net income must also fall at or below the poverty line in most cases.
There are exceptions to this rule, however. Households with a disabled individual or person over 60 are not required to meet the monthly income requirements and only need to meet the net income requirements.
The total number of individuals within the family determines where the poverty line is established for the applicant. The income levels are consistent in all states except Alaska and Hawaii, where they’re slightly higher.
Some families may be allowed to deduct certain expenses from their estimated amounts of income, such as childcare costs and medical bills. All taxpayers get a 20 percent deduction plus a standard deduction that varies by state and family.
Household Asset Guidelines
Assets are considered to be any item a household could feasibly sell to purchase food. Generally, the state will deduct essential items like the family’s primary residence along with their personal property. The state also sets a value limit for approved assets.
To qualify for SNAP, each household must prove they have less than $2,750 unless it includes a disabled individual or person over the age of 60. In that case, the limit moves up to $4,250.
In addition to the income and asset requirements, SNAP also has a work requirement. Adults within the household must be employed, looking for work, or in job training. Furthermore, they cannot voluntarily quit their current job or reduce their hours while receiving SNAP benefits. Pregnant women, the elderly, and those who can’t work due to health issues are exempt from this requirement.
Some individuals may not receive SNAP benefits even if they meet the previously listed requirements. The government excludes non-citizens, some students, and strikers from participating in the program. Legal immigrants, on the other hand, may be eligible if they’ve lived in the country for at least five years, prove they have dependents or are disabled.
SNAP also places limits on adults without minor children between the ages of 18 and 49 if they don’t work. The government considers those in this category to be Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD). ABAWDs can only receive SNAP benefits for 3 months every 3 years unless they work or train 80 hours a month.
Anyone found abusing or defrauding the system is banned for life.
Applying for SNAP Benefits
There is no reason to feel ashamed for needing a helping hand back to your feet after hard times hit. If you or someone you know needs assistance to find safe, nutritious food, SNAP is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked. Reach out to your local SNAP office for additional information or to begin the application process. In some states, you may even have the option to apply online.
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