How To Apply For Food Stamps In United States

Food Stamps or the benefits provided to low income households for buying food constitute an important part of the broader social security extended to needy households against vagaries of income volatility and the dangers of malnutrition. There are limits of its eligibility and a complex process needs to be followed before one begins to receive the benefits. Awareness about these aspects and the process can help one mitigate her hardships.
How to Apply for Food Stamps in United States
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Food stamps are certain benefits given to eligible poor households to buy food, with the aim of ensuring that all citizens get proper nutrition.  An eligible household or person can apply for the food stamps benefit by following some simple steps.

1. Confirm your eligibility

Only those households that satisfy certain criteria are eligible for getting food stamps. In a nutshell, the benefits are available to households whose total 'resources' are not more than $ 2250, or $ 3500 if the household has a member who is disabled or over 60 years old. For this purpose resources do not include home, vehicles,

household goods and personal effects. More importantly, the income of the household must not be over the eligible limits of 130% of federal poverty limit (FPL) for gross income and 100% of FPL for net income after reducing the allowable deductions. For families with a member that is disabled or aged over 60 years, 160% of FPL is allowed for gross income.

In case you wish to further check your eligibility, the USDA Food and Nutrition service also provides an online 'Food stamps pre-screening tool' that can be accessed at

2. Make an Application for Food Stamps

The application for food stamp needs to be submitted to the local food stamp office. One can either visit the office and submit the application there, or call the office and ask them to send an application form which can be filled up and send by mail or fax. It is important to remember that food stamps benefit is calculated from the day one's application is received by the office, hence it is preferable to submit the application quickly. If you can't complete the form immediately, you can still make a claim by just giving the local office your name, address and signature. Some states also allow the submission of application form online.

3. The Interview

On receipt of your application, the local food stamps office will schedule an interview with the applicant. The applicant will be required to attend the interview and also produce certain necessary documents. A face-to-face interview is required as a rule before foods stamps benefit are provided, as well as once annually thereafter. It may be waived as an exception if the interview is likely to cause significant hardship to the household, as when all the members of the household are disabled or very old.

The head of the household, the authorized representative or any responsible member of the household may attend the interview on behalf of the household. The interview is used as an opportunity to explain the program rules and conditions by an eligibility worker, along with the details as to how many months the benefit will

be available to the household.

Production of Details & Documents at the Time of Interview

At the time of your interview, documents supporting your income and expenses along with documents in support of identity etc would be required. These would normally include:

  • Proof of identity (driver's license, etc.), alien status, and passport in case of non-citizens.

  • Social Security Numbers for all household members.

  • If employed, proof of income (wage stubs, earning statements, etc.) for the past 30 days.

  • Bank statements for checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, credit union accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, etc.

  • Proof of shelter costs (rent or mortgage payment, lot rent, household, real estate, taxes, utility bills – heat, electricity, water/sewage/garbage, telephone, etc.)

Even if all of these details and documents are not immediately available, one should still attend the interview. These may have to be produced later if so required.

4. Verification of Claims

Supporting documents or proof regarding information reported in the application form will be asked for and must be submitted before a household can be certified as eligible. This includes details of identification, immigration Status, sponsored noncitizen information, residency, social security numbers of all members, gross Income, disability, utility expenses, medical expenses and child support obligations and payments.

Eligibility of all household members for receiving cash aid, such as CalWORKS or GA/GR makes the household categorically eligible for food stamps. All information related to resources, gross and net income limits, sponsored alien information, county residency, and social security number information accepted by other program will be straight away accepted by food stamps program too.

5. Certification

Once all the required information is submitted, the food stamps office will take decision on the eligibility of the household and communicate it within 30 days. In some cases, households may qualify for expedited services which ensure benefits are provided within 3 calendar days if the household satisfies one of the eligibility factors.

Households with less than $150 in monthly gross income and liquid resources of $100 or less, destitute migrant or seasonal farm workers, households with combined monthly gross income and liquid resources less than their monthly rent or mortgage and utilities, and homeless households are normally eligible for such expedited benefits.

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