What is SNAP?
SNAP is a governmental organization that helps people with low incomes buy food. The acronym stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but is operated on a state level, which creates some differences between states when it comes to qualifying criteria.
For example, California does not allow its Supplementary Security Income (SSI) receivers to collect SNAP grocery debit cards because the state includes food money in SSI payments. Conversely, some states have a combined application where you must apply for SNAP and SSI at the same time.
Eligibility for SNAP is based on household income.
Who Can Apply?
Anyone can apply for SNAP, but you and the other people in your household must meet certain criteria. In many cases, people between the ages of 18 and 60 who are not disabled must be employed to receive SNAP compensation. This demographic must also have a monthly income less than 130% of federal poverty guidelines for the previous year.
Furthermore, everyone applying for SNAP in your household must have a Social Security number and be a U.S. citizen or qualified immigrant.
For the most part, to qualify for SNAP your household cannot have more than $2,000 in ‘countable resources’. However, if your household includes someone age 60 or older or someone who is disabled, the limit is $3,000. These resources include cash, bank accounts and cars, depending on how the vehicle is used. One’s home and land plot itself do not count as a countable resource.
What Can SNAP Help You Buy?
To start, SNAP provides beneficiaries with a pre-loaded debit card. The amount of this card is adjusted annually for changes in food costs. The fluctuations account for inflation and the annual change is referred to as the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA).
You may use this card on food products such as:
- Breads and cereals.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Meats, fish and poultry.
- Dairy products.
- Seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat.
You cannot use SNAP benefits to purchase:
- Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco.
- Any non-food items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products and household supplies.
- Vitamins and medicines.
- Food that will be eaten in the store, i.e food from food courts.
- Hot foods.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you have limited income, restricted countable resources and are already receiving SSDI or SSI, you may also qualify for SNAP benefits. On the other hand, if you do not have limited income and resources, you will not be eligible for SNAP benefits – even if you are accepting other financial aid from the government.
Nonetheless, SNAP does have a few special rules for disabled people.
For instance, if you are receiving SSDI, you will also automatically be considered disabled by SNAP. Therefore, you may be able to deduct some of your medical expenses from your income. Households with elderly or disabled members usually have an advantage in SNAP eligibility, even in households that already have an SSI beneficiary.
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