The SNAP Program: The Most Important Information You Need to Know

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a program that helps low-income families have access to healthy food. There are many ways in which someone can qualify to get help from the SNAP program. Some people may qualify for reasons such as being unemployed, working for low wages, working part-time, receiving other forms of government assistance, being homeless, disabled or elderly.

Even though the program is a federal one, the local offices of state public assistance are the ones who run it for their local families. There are some rules that need to be followed in most states to apply. The amount that each department has to give out will depend on the United States Department of Agriculture Thrifty Food Plan. This is an estimate of how much healthy food costs in each area. This estimate can change on a yearly basis.


How To Apply For Snap Benefits

There are many ways to apply for food assistance through the SNAP organization. The first option is to get a paper application at your local SNAP office. They will give you one to fill out or tell you how you may download one off of their website. Through the website, applicants can download forms in many different languages. You may also apply by telephone. This is a good option for people without transportation to the office nor access to a computer and printer.

When you apply for benefits, it is important to accurately fill it out. All answers must be true and honest. Giving false information in order to get approved can come with penalties and discarding of your current application. You could also be banned from ever trying to apply in the future. If the program does find that you are eligible for food assistance benefits, you can get them as soon as thirty days from applying. For applicants who are in serious need, a rush on your benefits may be put into place.


Eligibility Requirements

When you apply for assistance through the SNAP program, you will need to supply proof of answers on your application as well as give an interview. You may need to prove some of the information and that will require documentation, this includes social security numbers, citizenship status paperwork, and your college information. If you are approved for help and are an able-bodied adult between the ages of 18 and 50, you will be required to look for work in order to get your benefits. Additionally, you will only be able to get assistance for three months within a three-year period of time.

Students who are enrolled in college at least part-time and are able to work will generally not be able to get assistance unless under certain conditions. They will have to work at least 20 hours, are taking care of a dependent, or are taking part in federally financed or state work study program.


Receiving The SNAP Benefits

If the office finds that you meet all eligibility requirements including the income limits, you will be able to get your benefits within thirty days. Your benefits will be given to you through your EBT account. You will receive an EBT card that you can use at most stores and food retail outlets. The card works just like a debit card and you will be given a pin number to use with it. When you first receive your card, it will come with important information regarding to how to use it.


What Can Be Bought With SNAP Benefits

Only food items will be allowed for purchase through the SNAP program. It cannot be used to purchase the following types of products:
  • Nonfood items such as soaps, pet food, household supplies, paper products, toothpaste, grooming items or cosmetics
  • Tobacco or Alcohol products
  • Medicine and vitamins
  • Ready-to-eat food in the store
  • Cooked food

All applicants that are approved are required to submit any changes to their household situations and employment to the office of SNAP immediately. You can report any changes by telephone or online through the SNAP assistance website.

It is important to report changes. If you end up getting more assistance than you were supposed to, you may have to pay the program back for used benefits.

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