8 Frequently Asked Questions about SNAP Benefits

The Ultimate Guide SNAP Makes Understanding The Benefits Easy

(Daily Dig) – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally-funded program to help low-income families and individuals supplement their monthly grocery bills. The program is designed to help recipients afford healthy food while they work towards self-sufficiency, as opposed to leaning towards cheaper, less nutrient-dense options.


1. What Are the Qualifications for SNAP?

Although SNAP is a federally-funded program, the application process is handled by the state where the recipient lives. As part of the qualification process, the state agency takes into account the family’s income and certain household bills to determine eligibility and the monthly benefit amount. If the person is applying is over 60 years of age, they might be able to have more income or resources and still qualify.

2. How Much Is the Average SNAP Benefit?

According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service department, the average SNAP benefit is $239 per month. The amount a person or family receives is dependent on a number of factors, such as:

  • Location
  • Number of family members
  • Income
  • Child care
  • Standard household bills, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, and others
  • Money in bank accounts

3. How Quickly Can a Family Receive SNAP Benefits?

In most states, a family can apply to receive SNAP benefits online. After completing the online application, there is a phone interview to help determine eligibility and the amount of the benefit. Generally, it can take up to 30 days to complete the process and receive benefits.

There is an expedited process available for families with little to no income available. In those cases, approved families receive benefits retroactively to the date of application instead of starting on the day of approval.

4. How Does a Person Use SNAP Benefits?

Once approved, a SNAP card, similar to a credit card, is sent to the recipient. The person chooses a PIN number. SNAP benefits are electronically loaded onto the card once a month for the family to use at the grocery store or other approved locations, swiping discretely just as they would a credit card. It’s essential to verify that a store accepts SNAP before shopping there.

5. What Can a Family Buy With SNAP Benefits?

Families can buy any food sold at a grocery store as long as it isn’t prepared food, such as deli meals designed to be eaten in a store food-court. SNAP benefits can’t be used to buy pet food or alcohol of any sort, even cooking wine. The benefits can’t be used to buy paper items, toiletries, or cleaning products.

6. How Long Do SNAP Benefits Last?

When a family qualifies for SNAP benefits, they receive the same amount each month for six months. The state agency contacts the recipient and reviews their case before the end of the six-month period. If the family continues to qualify, the benefits continue. Depending on income and other circumstances, the monthly amount can change.

7. Are Taxes Charged on the Groceries Purchased With SNAP Benefits?

Taxes on grocery products don’t change based on SNAP payment. Some states waive taxes on certain grocery items in general. In those states, the food items bought with SNAP benefits aren’t taxed, which gives families a little more buying power for their grocery budget.

8. Can a College Student Receive SNAP Benefits?

Some college students may qualify if they are enrolled in the minimum number of hours required to be considered a part-time student and meet other financial qualifications. A college student might need to work a minimum of 20 hours per week if they don’t have small children, or be enrolled in a work-study program at their college.

Visit Benefits.gov for more information on the SNAP program and how to apply in your own state of residence.

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