Staying healthy is a pressing concern for many families across the United States. To achieve this goal, they have access to a variety of federal programs designed to help them with their food expenses.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance for low-income families to purchase food and other household supplies.
Originally named Food Stamp Plan, it was created in 1939 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” set of reforms designed to combat the Great Depression. Henry Wallace, who served as Vice President and Secretary of Agriculture under Roosevelt, is thought by many to have done the most to bring about the program.
SNAP is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the agency of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). It benefits more than 44 million Americans who receive at least $100 a month in assistance to buy food and household supplies. In this guide, we offer information about the program, what is required to qualify, and how to apply to receive the benefits.
How to Qualify for SNAP
SNAP offers financial assistance to low-income families nationwide. As a result, the eligibility of a family is determined by the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). As of 2018, these guidelines establish $12,140 a year as the minimum income for a single-person to be above the poverty level in most states.
To receive the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a family needs to certify that their gross annual income falls below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This means that they do not have to be “in poverty” to be eligible for food assistance. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) does not count money received as part of any other assistance program towards the income calculation.
In addition to the income criteria, families must have less than $2,250 in assets to qualify. This number grows to $3,500 if the household includes an elderly or disabled person. However, it does not include the value of the family’s home, up to one vehicle, and other exonerated assets such as household goods and personal effects.
How to Apply for SNAP
Low-income families that are eligible for food assistance can submit an application to any of the local SNAP offices located in their state. The application can be submitted online, by mail or in person. Which methods are available vary state by state. Regardless, all state offices will ask families to provide documents that certify their eligibility, such as proof of income or employment.
Submitting a SNAP application online will usually require the creation of an account on the state office’s website. This generally gives the families access to additional benefits, allowing them to undertake other SNAP-related activities from their home, such as keeping track of their applications or submitting new documents.
It is possible in all states to send the application by mail. Using this method can be comfortable for families with no computer or internet access. Households should call their local SNAP office before submitting their application to make sure they send the documents to the correct mailing address.
A mandatory interview with a SNAP representative to review the documents and certify the eligibility must take place before the process is complete. Therefore, it is recommended that families take a trip to the local SNAP office and become familiar with the personnel. Two trips would have to be made to the local office to submit an application in person: one to ask for information and guidance and another one for the mandatory interview. However, this can be best method for elderly and disabled citizens, who can receive assistance and get their application approved as fast as possible.