How to Check Food Stamps Eligibility

The Food Stamps program provides nutrition assistance to nearly 40 million low-income American individuals and families. While 83 percent of people eligible for food stamps get benefits, only 59% of seniors who are eligible apply for benefits. In this post, we will show you how to check food stamps eligibility and determine if you qualify for benefits. You will learn about the income limit, resources test, residency and citizenship rules, and work requirements.

This post will provide information on the following topics:

  • Who Can Apply for Food Stamps
  • Why Food Stamps Are So Important
  • Food Stamps Eligibility Requirements
  • How Much You Could Receive In Food Stamps
  • Food Stamps Work Requirements
  • Documents You Need To Apply

"Food stamps eligibility guide"

Who Can Apply for Food Stamps?

The food stamps program helps people with limited income buy the food they need for good health. This includes individuals who:

  • Have a job but have low income
  • Are living on a small or fixed income
  • Have lost their job
  • Are retired or disabled and not able to work

Guardians who are not eligible for SNAP benefits themselves can apply on behalf of their children.

Permanent residents who have met the waiting period and certain categories of immigrants can also apply.

Why The Food Stamps Program is So Important

The food stamps program is a critical part of America’s fight against hunger and poverty.

The program is heavily focused on the poor, with 92 percent of benefits going to households with incomes at or below the poverty line.

The program is set up in such a way that individuals and families with the greatest need receive the most benefits.

In 2015, the Food stamps program lifted 4.6 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2 million children and 366,000 seniors.

The program also supports America’s economy and creates jobs. According to research from Moody’s Analytics, for every dollar spent by SNAP, 1.7 dollars are added to the economy.

In addition, a 2010 study by the USDA found that for every $1 billion in additional spending on the program, between 8,900 and 17,000 jobs were created.

Another study found that for every $1 billion in cuts to food stamps funding, 11,437 jobs would be destroyed.

Food Stamps Eligibility 2021-2022

To be eligible for the Food Stamp Program, you have to meet the eligibility requirements established by the USDA. Your household’s income and resources must meet three tests:

Test 1 – Gross Income Test

The first test you must meet is the gross monthly income test. This is a household’s income before any allowable deductions are applied.

The USDA requires that a household’s income must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line.

In fiscal year 2022, the poverty line amount for an individual is $1,073. Therefore for food stamps application, 130 percent of that level is $1,396. An individual applying for food stamps must, therefore, have a gross monthly income of $1,396 or below to qualify.

For a family of three, the poverty line is $1,830 a month. Therefore, 130 percent of that is $2,379 a month, or about $28,550 a year. The poverty level is higher for bigger families and lower for smaller families.

How to Calculate Gross Income

Use the example provided below to help you calculate your household’s gross monthly income.

How to Calculate Gross Income for Food Stamps
Gross Income Calculation: Example:
Determine household size . . . 4 people with no elderly or disabled members.
Add gross monthly income . . .
$1,500 earned income + $550 social security = $2,050 gross income.
If gross monthly income is less than the limit for household size, determine net income.
$2,050 is less than the $2,871 allowed for a 4-person household, so determine net income.

SNAP Gross Income Limit for 2021-2022

Once you have calculated your household’s gross income, use the chart below to determine if it meets the income limit for food stamp benefits.

SNAP Income Eligibility Standards for Fiscal Year 2022
Effective October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022
Household Size
Monthly Gross Income (130% of Federal Poverty Level)
1 $1,396
2 $1,888
3 $2,379
4 $2,871
5 $3,363
6 $3,855
7 $4,347
8 $4,838
Each Additional Household Member: +$492

Test 2 – Net Income Test

The Net Income, or household income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the poverty line for your household size.

To find out how to calculate your net income with the allowable deductions, continue reading below.

Food Stamps Allowable Deductions

Certain deductions are allowable to be taken from the gross income to arrive at the net income amount.

The following deductions are allowed for all households depending on the living situation and expenses:

  • 20 percent deduction from earned income to account for work-related expenses and payroll taxes.
  • A standard deduction based on household size (see below) to account for basic unavoidable costs.
  • Dependent care deduction for out-of-pocket child care or when needed for work, training, or education.
  • Child support deduction for any legally obligated child support that a member of the household pays.
  • Medical expense deduction for elderly or disabled household members that have incurred out-of-pocket medical expenses greater than $35 a month.
  • Homeless household shelter deduction of $159.73.
  • Excess shelter deduction for households with a shelter cost that exceed more than half of the household’s income. This deduction is uncapped for households with an elderly or disabled member. However, for all other households, this deduction is capped at $597 per month.

Once you have subtracted all eligible deductions from your household gross income, this will give you your monthly net income.

SNAP Standard Deduction

The food stamps standard deduction varies based on your household size and location. Please use the chart provided below to find the standard deduction amount for your household.

SNAP Standard Deductions for Fiscal Year 2022
Effective October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022
Household Size Standard Deduction
48 States & D.C. Alaska Guam Hawaii Virgin Islands
1-2 $177 $303 $356 $250 $156
3 $177 $303 $356 $250 $156
4 $184 $303 $367 $250 $184
5 $215 $303 $430 $250 $215
6+ $246 $308 $493 $283 $246

How to Calculate Net Income

Use the example provided below to help you calculate your household’s net monthly income based on 4-person household with a $2,050 gross income.

How to Calculate SNAP Net Income
Net Income Calculation: Example for a 4-person household:
Subtract 20% earned income deduction…
$2,050 gross income
$1,500 earned income x 20% = $300. $2,050 – $300 = $1,750
Subtract standard deduction…
$1,750 – $184 standard deduction for a 4-person household = $1,566
Subtract dependent care deduction… $1,569 – $362 dependent care = $1,204
Subtract child support deduction… $0
Subtract medical costs over $35 for elderly and disabled… $0
Excess shelter deduction… See below
Determine half of adjusted income… $1,204 adjusted income/2 = $602
Determine if shelter costs are more than half of adjusted income…
$700 total shelter – $602 (half of income) = $98 excess shelter cost
Subtract excess amount, but not more than the limit, from adjusted income… $1,204 – $98 = $1,106 net monthly income
Apply the net income test…
Since $1,106 is less than $2,209 allowed for a 4-person household, this household has met the income test.

What Counts As Income?

For your SNAP application, cash from all sources will count towards your income limit including:

  • Earned income (before payroll taxes are deducted)
  • Unearned income, such as cash assistance, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and child support are all counted towards your income for food stamps purposes.

SNAP Net Income Limit for 2021-2022

Once you have calculated your household’s net income, use the chart below to determine if your household meets the food stamps income limit for 2021-2022.

SNAP Income Eligibility Standards for Fiscal Year 2022
Effective October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022
Household Size Monthly Net Income (100% of Federal Poverty Level)
1 $1,074
2 $1,452
3 $1,830
4 $2,209
5 $2,587
6 $2,965
7 $3,344
8 $3,722
Each Additional Household Member: +$379

Test 3 – Assets Test 

The final test to determine if you’re eligible for food stamp benefits is the assets test. This test determines if your total household assets fall below the acceptable limit.

Households with a member who is elderly (age 60 or older) or disabled, must have assets or countable resources of $3,750 or less.

Households without an elderly or disabled member, must have assets of $2,500 or less.

What counts as an Asset?

For your application, resources that could be available to the household to purchase food are counted towards your asset limit.

This includes:

  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real estate other than your home
  • Income you earn from assets (like interest earned on savings and dividends you receive).

What Resources don’t count towards the limit?

Certain resources are NOT counted when determining eligibility for SNAP, this includes items that you own that are not accessible, such as:

  • Household Home
  • Personal Property
  • Retirement Savings*
  • Pension Plans*

*Please note that withdrawals from these accounts may count as either income or resources depending on how often they occur.

In addition, the resources of people who receive additional government assistance do not count towards your total resource limit.

This includes income from:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

Do vehicles count towards the SNAP income limit?

While most vehicles do not count towards the food stamps resources limit, this varies based on the state you live in.

Your state directly determines how vehicles may count towards the household resource limit.

Licensed vehicles are NOT counted if they are:

  • Used for income-producing purposes (e.g., taxi, truck or delivery vehicle)
  • Annually producing income consistent with their fair market value
  • Needed for long distance travel for work (other than daily commute)
  • Used as the home
  • Needed to transport a physically disabled household member
  • Needed to carry most of the household’s fuel or water
  • If the sale of the vehicle would result in less than $1,500.

For non-excluded licensed vehicles with a fair market value over $4,650, they will count as a resource.

In addition, licensed vehicles are also subject to an equity test, which is the fair market value less any amount owed on the vehicle.

The following vehicles are excluded from the equity test:

  • One vehicle per adult household member.
  • Any other vehicle used by a household member under 18 to drive to work, school, job training, or to look for work.
  • For vehicles with both a fair market value over $4,650 and an equity value, the greater of the two amounts is counted as a resource.

Additionally, the equity value of unlicensed vehicles generally counts as a resource, with some exceptions.

How Much In Food Stamps Will I Receive?

The table below shows the maximum amount you could receive depending on the number of people in your household.

Maximum SNAP Benefit Amount by Household Size for Fiscal Year 2022
Effective October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022
Household Size Maximum SNAP Benefit Allotment
48 States & D.C. Hawaii Alaska Virgin Islands Guam
Urban Rural 1 Rural 2
1 $250 $472 $322 $411 $500 $322 $369
2 $459 $865 $591 $753 $917 $590 $677
3 $658 $1,239 $846 $1,079 $1,313 $845 $969
4 $835 $1,573 $1,074 $1,370 $1,667 $1,074 $1,231
5 $992 $1,868 $1,276 $1,627 $1,980 $1,275 $1,462
6 $1,190 $2,242 $1,531 $1,952 $2,376 $1,530 $1,754
7 $1,316 $2,478 $1,692 $2,158 $2,626 $1,691 $1,939
8 $1,504 $2,832 $1,934 $2,466 $3,002 $1,933 $2,216
Each Additional Household Member: +$188 +$354 +$242 +$308 +$375 +$242 +$277

Residency Requirement

To apply for food stamps, you must apply in your state of residency.

Citizenship Requirement

Only United States Citizens and certain categories of lawfully admitted non-citizens can apply for food stamps. If you are a non-citizen, see our detailed article on the topic here.

Documents You Need to Apply

Here are the documents you will need to apply for food stamps:

  • Citizenship verification
  • Government-issued ID for proof of identity and state residency
  • Proof of Income (W-2 or paystubs)
  • Proof of Expenses (utility bills, etc.)
  • Disability Approval Letter (if applicable)
  • Alien or Citizenship Documentation

For proof of citizenship, you will need to present one of the following documents:

  • Birth certificate
  • Military service records
  • US Passport
  • Naturalization Certificate
  • Permanent resident card/Green card

What Happens After You Apply

After you apply for food stamps, you must complete an interview with a representative of the Department that runs the program in your state.

Some states allow for a phone interview. In other states, the interview is face-to-face.

If you are elderly or physically unable to travel for a face-to-face interview, you can apply for a waiver, which is granted on a case by case basis based on hardship.

If your waiver request is granted, the face-to-face interview will be replaced with a phone interview.

During the interview, and you will be required to provide verification of your income and expenses.

If your application is approved, you will start receiving benefits no later than 30 days from the date you submit your application.

Do You Need Benefits Sooner?

You may get emergency food stamp benefits within 7 calendar days if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You have less than $150 in monthly gross income and no more than $100 in liquid resources;
  • have shelter costs that are higher than your gross income and liquid resources, or
  • you’re a seasonal migrant worker and destitute.

How Long Can I Be on Food Stamps?

There are no limits to how long you can get food stamps if you have children/dependents living in your household or are under age 18 or over age 50.

However, If you are a single, able-bodied adult without dependents in your home, you can only receive food stamps for 3 months in a 36-month period.

Food Stamps Work Requirements

If you Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) – meaning you are an individual age 18 through 49 who do not live with a child under 18 and who is fit for work – then you must comply with the work requirements to continue to receive food stamps.

The rules state that ABAWDs can only get food stamp benefits for 3 months in 3 years unless they meet certain special work requirements or are excused.

However, there are exceptions to the 3-month limit. If you are an ABAWD, you may be exempted from the time limit work requirements if you:

  • Work an average of at least 20 hours per week each month in unsubsidized
    employment; or
  • Participate 20 hours per week in an approved employment and training program; or
  • Participate in community service by volunteering at a nonprofit organization.

You may be exempt from meeting work requirements if you meet any of the following
federal criteria:

  • Are physically or mentally unable to work 20 hours a week.
  • Receive Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance due to disability or blindness, or receives Supplemental Security Income or State Disability Assistance.
  • Receive or are an applicant for unemployment benefits.
  • Participate in a drug or alcohol treatment and rehabilitation program.
  • Attend training or college at least half-time and meet the student eligibility criteria to receive food assistance.
  • Care for an incapacitated person or a child under age 6.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Are a victim of domestic violence.
  • Reside in a household with a child under age 18.

Apply for Food Stamps

If you qualify for benefits, we can help you apply for food stamps. We have provided detailed application instructions by state. Click here to find specific information for your state.

Food Stamps Eligibility Questions

We hope this article on the Food Stamps Eligibility Requirements for 2021-2022 was helpful to you!

If you have additional questions about how to qualify for food stamp benefits in your state, please let us know in the comments section below. We are happy to help answer any additional questions you have.

In the meantime, check out our other articles on food stamps eligibility and how to apply:

Food Stamps Income Limit for 2021-2022
SNAP EBT Calculator – Find out how much you’ll receive
Apply for Food Stamps in your State
SNAP Cost-of-Living Increase for 2021-2022

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