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The majority of all individuals and families who meet the income requirement are qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, previously known as the Food Stamp Program).
Yet the amount of your household SNAP benefit is based upon your income along with certain expenses. There may also be certain deductions that you may be eligible for when determining your household income and food stamp benefits.
In this article we are going to break down everything you need to know about the qualifying for SNAP as well as what bills will affect your benefits.
Determining Eligibility for Food Stamps
To qualify for your SNAP benefits, your household must meet certain prerequisites and requirements. Yet what exactly qualifies as a household?
A household includes all those who reside with you, purchases, and prepares food with you. When considering resources and income, it is the sum of all the members of your household, not just the head of the household.
Under federal guidelines to be eligible for food stamps, a household’s resources and earnings must essentially meet these three requirements, according to the Social Security Administration:
● Income requirements
The majority of households must meet the limits of both net and gross income to be qualified for the food stamp benefits.
Your “gross income” is defined to be your total family income that is before taxes are taken off. Some things can be deducted from your gross earnings such as child support, housing costs, payments, and infant or based care payments.
You or other members of your household who are age 60 or older, or receiving certain disability payments, can additionally deduct month-to-month medical expenses over $35 from the family income. Yet expenses cannot be deducted if an insurance company or anyone who is not a family member pays for them.
Your “net income” is indicated by your amount left over after deductions are taken out of your gross income. However, a family with an elder individual or a person receiving disability payments will only have to meet the net profits test.
Households are viewed as income-eligible if everyone in the household receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Income limits fluctuate by using family measurement and may subject to change each year.
● Resource requirements
Another guideline households must meet is the resource limit. Resources are the things that you own, such as cash or your money in a bank account. As of right now, households might also have $2,250 in resources or $3,500 if at least a man or woman is age 60 or older, or is disabled in the household.
Yet certain things are not regarded as a resource. For instance, your property and lot are now not considered to be a resource. In some states, you can also own at least one car. The resources of individuals who receive SSI or TANF are no longer counted either.
● Work requirements
If you are an able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD), can work but currently not employed, and between the age of 18 and 49, you may be only eligible for the benefits of SNAP for three-months within three years. This is referred to as the “time limit.” For an ABAWD to be qualified for SNAP beyond the time limit, you both must participate or work in a certifying education or training activity for a minimum of 80 hours per month.
Yet the time restriction does not qualify if you are unable to work due to physical or mental health reasons, pregnancy, caring for an infant or a family member with a disability, or are excluded from the general work qualifications. This requirement is waived in some places, though. In some situations, if you are no longer working, you may additionally be required to participate in a specific employment or coaching program with the state.
In addition to the three general requirements regarding resource and income qualifications, there are other additional eligibility requirements to pay attention to as well. One of the other requirements includes that everyone in your household either has or has applied for a social security number.
You may also be qualified for SNAP benefits if you meet the income and resource limits and are legally present non-citizen. Yet most lawfully present individuals who are not a citizen will have to wait five years before they can obtain SNAP benefits.
Yet some non-citizens are legally present who do not have to wait five years to obtain the benefits from SNAP. These individuals include children who are under 18 and present under the law, individuals with disabilities, asylees, and refugees. You may also be qualified for the SNAP benefits if you are lawfully present and have a decent amount of work history or a connection to the military.
What deductions count for food stamps?
When determining your net pay, seven deductions are allowed against your income that you may consider, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). You may have to determine which allowable deductions that apply to you, then subtract that amount from your gross income to figure out your net income. Once you have done so, the difference is your net income.
The seven deductions that count and affect your food stamps include:
● Deduction from your earned income
You are allowed to deduct 20% of your household income that you have earned. This applies to all the households that have earnings.
● Standard household reduction
This reduction depends on the size of your households. For a household of one to three members, it would be a deduction amount of about $167. For a household of four members, the amount of deduction would be about $178. The amount of deduction will vary between households. This reduction applies to all households and can be taken advantage of by all applicants.
● Child or dependent care reduction
This reduction is only applicable if your child or dependent needs that care to work, go to school, or attend any required training. This reduction covers the care for children, elderly, and disabled. This reduction excludes animal care.
● Approved medical expense reduction
For this reduction, it covers the medical expenses that are approved for the elderly or disabled members of the household. For the medical expense to be approved for a deduction, it has to exceed $35 a month (the first $35 worth of medical expense is not considered) and not covered by insurance. Most of your office visits co-pays will not be deductible, though.
● Legally owed child support payments
This reduction in child support you are legally obliged to pay for children who do not live in your household, which is not counted under the gross income test and thus a deduction in figuring out your net income.
Your payments for child support are only not countable if you have an administrative order, court order, or any other enforceable legal separation contract of agreement that states that you must pay this amount of money.
If you pass the gross income test, in addition to paying the child support from your earned income, the amount you have compensated will be added back into the sum of your earnings for an increase in your allowed 20% income.
● Costs of shelter for homeless households
This deduction applies to your household if all members in your household are homeless and reside in a homeless shelter or with another individual who acquires, reasonably awaits to acquire shelter or expenses for utility are qualified for the standard shelter/utility deduction. Yet not all states will offer this deduction, so it is important that if you are homeless, you notify your caseworkers when you apply for SNAP benefits.
● Excess shelter deduction
This deduction is one that applies to all households. For this deduction, allowable shelter costs that exceed more than half the family’s income after the other deductions have been subtracted.
According to USDA, allowable shelter costs include:
● Fuel to heat and cook with
● Expenses for utility (such as electricity and water)
● The basic fee for one mobile
● Rent or mortgage payments and interest
● Taxes on the property
Does a car payment affect food stamps?
When you register for your SNAP benefits, your caseworker will determine your qualifications based on your earnings, your household members, and the number of cashable assets, according to USDA. An asset that is considered cashable includes cars that members of the household own. Although USDA sets the principles and guidelines for the worth of the asset, states are given the liberty to essentially determine to either execute these regulations or disregard them.
According to USDA’s vehicle policy, up to approximately $4,650 of a vehicle’s value is excluded from assets. For example, this means that if your vehicle’s worth is $5,000, only $350 of that total is considered to be a resource.
Yet there have been some instances where the vehicle’s entire worth has been exempt, including if you use the vehicle to reside in if the car is used to help make money, if you use it to transfer a disabled family member, or if the equity value is $1,500 or less.
However, many states exclude cars as an asset. According to World Work, they exempt vehicles as a resource regardless of what the household uses it for or what it worths. States that have total exemption include Alabama, California, Connecticut, Mississippi, and New Jersey.
According to USDA, some other states follow the policy of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) in place of the SNAP vehicle guidelines, because they are less strict. These states include Delaware, Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Michigan. According to World Work, the rest of the states also bend the vehicle policy but set their own sets of rules.
Yet essentially, it is predominately not true that owning a car prevents you from being eligible for food stamps. You are still able to qualify for food stamp benefits if you own a car. In most instances, vehicles are considered to be a personal good, such as your property, clothing, jewelry, and other household goods as well that would not affect food stamp eligibility in the majority of states.
Does rent affect food stamps?
Your rent as well as mortgage have a significant impact on determining the eligibility of your food stamps. However, the formula to calculate food stamps benefits is complicated, so it depends on your household and may not apply to everyone. But typically, the higher the costs of your housing are, the higher the value of your food stamps will be.
According to Mass Legal Help, if you are not paying for rent or utilities and receiving them for free, your food stamps amount will be reduced. Yet if you pay for any amount, even if it is just a small amount, the food stamps will alter.
Can I get food stamps if I don’t pay rent?
Calculating the value of your food stamps is complex. But if you don’t pay rent and wonder if you are eligible for food stamps benefits, it all depends on the situation and circumstance around why you don’t pay rent. There are a variety of reasons as to why someone who does not pay rent may need SNAP benefits. This may include homeless individuals, college students, or those who live with friends or family.
So, if you don’t pay rent, do you qualify for food stamps benefits? In most cases, you can. Although there are a few exclusions, and that you probably will not receive as much benefit as those who do pay for rent, for the most part, you can receive food stamps even if you do not pay for rent.
However, there are certain circumstances sometimes where you won’t be able to receive SNAP benefits if you do not pay rent. This is because there are housing situations where it will make you unqualified for food stamps either if you pay for rent or not. It is important to make note of these situations.
According to USDA, some individuals who are not eligible for food stamps if they don’t pay rent includes:
● Young adults living with their parents do not qualify
If you are a young adult who resides with your parent’s home, you usually will not be eligible for food stamps benefits since you are usually required to be included as part of your parent’s household food stamp.
However, in most circumstances, once you are at least 22 you may be able to claim your food stamps benefit even while living with your parents.
● Borders are considered an exception and are not eligible for benefits
If you rent a room with someone else while also paying that individual for at least half of your weekly expenses for meals, you are considered to be a “boarder.” As a “boarder,” you are not able to apply as a separate household and thus not eligible for food stamp benefits.
Though if you only pay for a room or reside in an individual’s home without paying for your meals, you are considered to be a “roomer.” If you are a “roomer,” you may be eligible for SNAP benefits when you apply to be considered as a separate household, if you are buying and preparing most of your meals apart from the other members occupying the house.
What is the maximum income to qualify for food stamps?
If you want to be eligible for food stamps benefits, there is a limit to how high your income can be before you are not able to qualify for the benefits. Yet what exactly qualifies as an income?
According to USDA, SNAP includes cash earnings from an accumulation of the sources. The two main sources that SNAP count as income are:
● Income that you earned (before the deduction of payroll taxes)
● The income you did not earn (these includes Social Security, cash assistance, child support, and unemployment insurance)
In essence, to be qualified for food stamps benefits, the total amount of your household income must be below a certain number. This means once you determine the sum of your income in regard to both earned and unearned income, it must be below a specific number.
This certain number all depends on the total amount of people living in your household. To qualify for SNAP benefit, your maximum total income per month should be 130% of the federal poverty level.
Here is a list of approximate income limits to be eligible for food stamps, according to In Charge:
● 1 household member: $1,287 (gross month-to-month income or 130% of poverty); $990 (net monthly income, 100% percent of poverty)
● 2 household members: $1,736 (gross); $1,335 (net)
● 3 household members: $2,184 (gross); $1,680 (net)
● 4 household members: $2,633 (gross); $2,025 (net)
● 5 household members: $3,081 (gross); $2,370 (net)
● 6 household members: $3,530 (gross); $2,715 (net)
● 7 household members: $3,980 (gross); $3,061 (net)
● 8 household members: $4,430 (gross); $3,407 (net)
● Every additional member: Add $451 to the gross and $347 to the net
The maximum income amount to qualify for food stamps truly depends on the number of people in your household. As long as your total household income is 130% of federal poverty, you should be eligible for SNAP benefits.
What income is not counted for SNAP?
When caseworkers determine your eligibility, one important thing they will look at is your household monthly income. Your household monthly income plays a big part in deciding if you are qualified for the benefits, and also the number of food stamps benefits you will be qualified for. This means income will certainly depend on the number of members of your household, and you will have to provide information about them.
According to Mass Legal Help, not all income will count towards your SNAP benefits. Some of the income that does not count for SNAP from Mass Legal Help may include:
● VISTA, YouthBuild, and AmeriCorps allowances, earnings, or fees for individuals that are, in any other case, eligible.
● Earnings of a kid under the age of 18 who are attending secondary college at least half of the time.
● Lump-sum bills – together with inheritances, tax credits, damage awards, one-time severance pay, or different one-time payments
● Reimbursements – the amount of money you get back to pay again for costs, such as schooling-associated costs and medical costs
● Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) stipends paid to older employees doing community service jobs part-time
● Anything you do not receive as cash, including free housing or food, or expenses that are paid straight to a landlord or utility company made by a relative, friend or agency that has no legal obligation to do so
● Cash contributions that are given to you that provide for a part of your housing, food or other needs that are paid by a person or agency that has no lawful need to do so
● Veterans Services fees made by vendor payment straight to your landlord or utility company.
● Income earned by a child under age 18 who is attending high school or elementary school at least part-time, understanding that the child lives with a parent or guardian
● Up to $30 per members in a household in three months that is not regular (for instance, money from odd jobs and gigs)
● Up to $300 in three months from private charities
● Federal educational financial aids including grants, loans, and work-study, including Montgomery Bill payments to veterans
● Other educational grants and scholarships that are towards education expenses and not intended for current living expenses
● Loans are given by private individuals and financial institutions, along with loans on the equity of a home (reverse mortgages)
● The initial $130 per month in training stipends
● One-time payments, such as your refunds from taxes, state and federal earned income tax credits (EITC), insurance settlements, and back benefits from other programs
● Further payments received by your household for a family member who is in the United States Armed forces and deployed in a combat area
● Lawfully obligated child support fees that you pay for a child who is not living with you inside your home and also not part of your SNAP household (these payments are not included for the gross income test or for calculating the level of your benefit)
Can SNAP see my bank account?
Since you are providing any personal information for SNAP to check eligibility and the number of food stamps that you qualify for, you might be wondering if SNAP will be able to check on your bank account for your money going in and out.
Although the Right to Financial Privacy Act protects the privacy of your checking account information, states, and federal policies may require you to provide information to access your bank account, including your deposits, withdraws, and recent statements.
Your Department of Social Services or SNAP distributing office might indeed require access to view your current bank statements as part of the process to check your eligibility for food stamps. But in addition to your bank statements, agencies might also request your bank to access your financial information, with your consent.
Though it is important to note that refusing to cooperate or consent in the requisition to view bank statements or other financial information can end up with a denial of benefits.
What are the asset limits?
If you have been declined qualification for SNAP benefits due to having too many resources, and you now have less, you can reapply for SNAP benefits at any time.
You may be able to receive food stamps if your household assets are below the limit. In a majority of states, households may have an asset limit of $2,250, or $3,250 if at least one household member is disabled or age 60 or older.
However, according to USDA, resources such as home lots, assets of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) (formerly AFDC), and most retirement plans are not counted towards your asset limits.
Many individuals who are lawfully entitled to food stamps benefits feel uneasy or uncomfortable about accepting the benefits because of the financial connotations associated with them. Yet there truly is nothing to be shameful about receiving some aid when you need it. The SNAP policies are strict enough to ensure that only individuals who genuinely need it will receive the benefits.
You may think about SNAP and different government advantages as a form of an insurance program if it helps ease the discomfort. All taxpayers place cash into the system, similar to paying a premium for insurance, and individuals who require assistance may take money out, such as sick individuals taking aid from their health insurance institution to pay for medical fees. The same individual that takes cash out of the system this year may be paying next year and the other way around.
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