(AscendHealthy.com) – If you’re a low-income individual or member of a low-income family, you know how challenging it can be to make sure your household eats, especially when food prices are on the rise and access to nutritional foods and ingredients isn’t always possible or easy. Fortunately, the federal government funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. This program is specifically intended to help low-income families with their monthly grocery bills.
SNAP is meant to encourage families to choose more nutrient-dense food, instead of cheaper alternatives.
Here’s what you need to know about SNAP.
While SNAP is funded by the federal government, your state actually handles your application process. The state looks at your family’s bills and income to determine eligibility, as well as age and disability status.
How Much Does SNAP Pay Out?
The average SNAP benefit is currently $239 per month, per the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Department. The amount an individual or family receives is also dependent on their location, number of people in their family, income, child care costs, assets (how much money they have in the bank), and their typical bills, such as energy bills, mortgage, rent, and more.
How Fast Do SNAP Benefits Kick In?
If you’re in distress and need some food assistance fast, you might be wondering how long it will take for those benefits to come to you once approved. In many states, you can save some time in the process by applying online. Then you’ll have to go through an interview process. This portion of the application process takes about a month.
However, if you have no income available, or the amount you have is very small, you might be able to get an expedited case. You may also get retroactive benefits.
How Do You Use SNAP Benefits?
Once approved, you’ll get an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which functions mainly like a debit card. You select a pin number so you can use the card, and then you can spend the funds at approved grocery stores, food stalls, and other approved retailers. Make sure you ensure a shop accepts SNAP before shopping there.
What Can You Get With SNAP Benefits?
Unfortunately, you cannot use SNAP benefits to buy ready-made food such as food court food, pet food, or alcohol. This even includes cooking wine. You can’t use it for paper items, cleaning products, or toiletries. However, you can use it for a respectable amount of food items, especially the essentials like milk and bread.
How Long Can You Stay on SNAP Benefits?
Once you qualify for SNAP benefits, you get that amount for six months. After that time period, the state agency will reach out and review your case. If you still qualify, your benefits continue. Your monthly allotment can change if your income and other circumstances change.
When You Use SNAP Benefits, How Do Taxes Work on the Purchased Items?
SNAP benefits don’t change whether or not you’re charged taxes. That’s still dependent on the state. If your state doesn’t charge taxes on food, that gives you some more buying power with your EBT card.
Can College Students Get SNAP Benefits?
Some college students do qualify for SNAP. If you meet the minimum number of hours for qualification and meet other financial requirements, you might qualify, especially if you are in a work-study program or otherwise work a minimum number of hours.
The SNAP benefits process is relatively easy once you understand the basics. Armed with this information, your next step is to determine whether you qualify and apply for SNAP and minimize your stress and hunger today.
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