5 things you must know before applying for SNAP

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP, is an updated version of what used to be known as Food Stamps. As the biggest program against hunger in the U.S., SNAP is intended to help eligible people and families with low to no income that suffer from inadequate nutrition. Even though it is a federal program, each state has its own local agencies to put it to practice.

In the past, the program allowed you to apply for food stamps or coupons of different values ($1, $5 and $10). In 1990, with the help of private companies, SNAP switched methodologies and began to provide aid through an Electronic Benefit Transference, also known as EBT cards.

Consider the following 5 things you need to know before applying for SNAP:

#1 Check your eligibility

SNAP is available to all kinds of people and families that meet the requirements, regardless of how many members the family has or their ages.

Documentation needed

  • ID and residence in one of the states
  • Household income
  • Expenses
  • Immigration status, if you are applying as a non-US citizen

Additional documentation

  • If you legally support a child, you may add the expense
  • Child care expenses, such as transportation and school costs
  • Medical expenses that exceed 35 dollars per month (only for elderly or disabled people)
  • House rent, mortgage, taxes or insurance
  • Light and gas expenses

We recommend you visit your local library and access the pre-screening tool with one of their computers. Or, if you rather do it by phone, you can call Food Source and ask to talk to an adviser about the SNAP benefits.

#2 Emergency SNAP

Keep in mind that you may also check eligibility and apply for the emergency SNAP benefits, which will be given to you within 7 days of requested. In this case, the best option is to go directly to your local SNAP office.

To be eligible, your situation must be compatible with at least one of the following 3 scenarios:

  1. Your monthly income is lower than 150 dollars and you have less than 100 dollars in your savings account.
  2. Your income and savings at the bank are less than your monthly housing expenses.
  3. You or the member applying is a migrant worker with less than 100 dollars in the bank.

#3 Applying for the household

If you are not only applying for food stamps for yourself but also for your entire household, you should add their names in the form. This is because you buy and prepare the meals for all of you, so they also need to be covered in the benefits given to you.

Spouses and kids under 22 years old must submit only one application as a household.

#4 There are many ways to apply

If you want to ask for information or apply to the SNAP program, select one of the following methods:

  • County and state offices. Visit your local SNAP office (if you don’t know where it is, you’ll find it listed under the Food Stamps section of the phone book).
  • Call Center. You can call Project Bread’s Food Source line, which is free, at 1-800-645-8333.
  • Via email or fax.
  • Online form. Not all states have this option available, but you can verify if your state applies in the Department of Agriculture’s website. Plus, one of them has its own form, so be sure to select the correct state.

#4 EBT cards

As soon as you apply, you will get an EBT card on the mail. However, don’t freak out if its balance is worth $0 — this is normal. Only when your request is approved will you start seeing the SNAP benefits accredited.

#5 It takes time

Applying to get SNAP benefits takes time and you should be patient. After you apply, the agency will call you to verify your documentation. If you are eligible for emergency SNAP, you the process may be faster. If not, your local SNAP office will contact you after 30 days to notify the approval or denial of your application.

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