What is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program(SNAP)? – The availability of healthy foods at a reasonable price is often a challenge for Americans who live at or below the poverty threshold, putting a strain on already limited resources and potentially resulting in food choices contrary to current nutritional guidelines. The USDA offers several nutrition assistance programs to alleviate this problem to improve low-income households’ access to healthy foods.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamp Program, serves more than 46 million Americans and costs more than $75 billion annually. By increasing low-income families’ food purchasing power, SNAP aims to improve nutrition among low-income households.
What Is SNAP?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutritional support to low-income working families, seniors (60 and older), and disabled people who live on fixed incomes, as well as other low-income individuals and households.
About two-thirds of SNAP participants come from families with children, and more than one-third come from households with older adults or people with disabilities. SNAP provides additional assistance during and after economic recessions, second only to unemployment insurance.
Who Is Eligible for SNAP?
Unlike most means-tested benefit programs, the SNAP program is not restricted to a particular group of low-income residents. A household may own a vehicle worth up to a certain amount and still qualify for SNAP benefits under federal rules and benefit levels.
However, states have the flexibility to tailor aspects of those rules. A household is eligible for SNAP benefits if it meets three criteria (although states may adjust these limits):
- For a three-person household in the fiscal year 2022, $2,379 (about $28,550 a year) of gross monthly income must not exceed 130 percent of the poverty line. This limit does not apply to households with an older member or a disabled member.
- After deducting items like housing expenses and child care, the household’s net monthly income must be at most the poverty line ($1,830 a month or about $21,960 a year for a three-person household in the fiscal year 2022).
- For the fiscal year 2022, households without an older or disabled member must have assets below $2,500, while households with older or disabled must have assets below $3,750.
The members of a SNAP household live together, purchase food, and prepare it together. No matter how small an individual’s income or assets may be, some people are not eligible for SNAP benefits, including those on strike, college students, and people with drug felony convictions in certain states.
Documents Needed to Apply for Nutrition Assistance and Cash Assistance
DES uses a wide range of resources to verify the required information. To speed up the processing of your application, please provide the following verifications:
- A driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, or state-issued identification is sufficient proof of identity.
- When it applies to your household, please complete the following verification:
- All working applicants must provide proof of earned income this month and last.
- Income proof from self-employment. If your business has been operating for less than 12 months, please provide all your income from the past 12 months. At least one receipt should be provided for self-employment expenses.
- Providing proof of unearned income, such as social security, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, gifts, loans, child support, and benefits from the Veterans Administration.
- For applicants who are not U.S. citizens: A copy of your alien registration card is required as proof of lawful permanent residency.
It is not mandatory to provide proof of expenses, but it may help you receive more benefits.
- Expense proof for rent or mortgage.
- Provide proof of utility expenses such as electricity, garbage, gas, telephone, coal, or water.
- You need to prove that someone else cares for your child while you are at work. Provide a statement if you are taking your child to or from the provider’s office.
- The evidence that legal obligations have been met and that child support has been paid as ordered by the court.
- For individuals aged 60 or older or receiving disability benefits, proof of all medical expenses is required when the total household amount exceeds $35.00.
- The proof of legal obligation and the payment of last month’s and this month’s child support.
The SNAP Application Process
Check your eligibility
SNAP benefits are available to households with gross monthly income below 130% of the federal poverty line.
Households with elderly or disabled members have lower limits. For the latest information on eligibility, contact your state SNAP office, as COVID-19 has eased some requirements.
Apply in your state of residence
A map provided by the USDA on its FNS website allows you to search for FNS offices in a particular state. The page lists the addresses and phone numbers of FNS offices, as well as a link to their websites.
Information about employment training programs and other services can be found on the state’s websites, including a list of local offices and online applications.
The Effectiveness of Food Assistance
According to a recent study using pulse surveys conducted by the Census Bureau, the passage of the December 2020 and March 2021 relief laws was associated with a significant reduction in food insufficiency and poverty rates.
During the pandemic, households with children, which have experienced the highest rates of food insufficiency, experienced a 41% decline from December 2020 to April 2021.
Low-income households experienced the greatest declines in material hardship, but higher-income households also experienced declines.
What is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?
This federal program helps low-income families purchase healthy food for their families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In 2014, electronic payment cards replaced paper vouchers to deliver cash as part of the food stamp program.
Who is eligible for SNAP payments?
The SNAP program is available to anyone earning less than 130% of the federal poverty level. If there is a disabled or elderly member of the household, the benefit amount will vary. The average benefit increase for the fiscal year 2022, which begins on October 1, 2021, is $36.24.
How are benefit amounts calculated?
Thrifty Food Plan amounts are used to calculate Nutrition Assistance (NA) benefit amounts. Amounts designated in the Thrifty Food Plan are determined by the USDA and must be used by all States in determining NA benefits uniformly. It must be determined that all other eligibility requirements have been met before DES can compute a budget for determining NA benefits.
SNAP has these features that make it a powerful tool in the fight against poverty. Before the pandemic, CBPP researchers found that SNAP kept nearly 8 million people above the poverty line annually, including 3.6 million children, based on the government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (which counts SNAP as income). One of the strongest antipoverty effects found in a related CBPP study is SNAP.