Food Stamps

Social Security Bulletin, January 1, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Food Stamps


The Food Stamp program provides a means for persons with no or little income to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet. The program issues monthly allotments of coupons that are redeemable at retail food stores, or provides benefits through electronic benefit transfer (EBT). Eligibility and allotments are based on household size, income, assets, and other factors.

Households without income receive an amount equal to 100 percent of the June monthly cost of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP-a nutritionally adequate diet) for a reference family of four adjusted for household size and economies of scale. This amount is updated every October for the new fiscal year to account for food price increases.

As of October 2002, an eligible four-person household in the continental United States with no income receives $465 per month in food stamps. Households with income receive food stamps valued at the difference between the maximum allotment and 30 percent of their income, after certain allowable deductions.

To qualify for food stamps, a household must have:

1. Less than $2,000 in disposable assets ($3,000, if one member is aged 60 or older or is disabled),

2. Gross income below 130 percent of the poverty guidelines for the household size, and

3. Net income of less than 100 percent of the poverty guidelines allowable deductions.

Households with a person aged 60 or older or a disabled person receiving either Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security (OASDI), state general assistance, or veterans' disability benefits (or interim disability assistance pending approval of any of the above programs) may have gross income exceeding 130 percent of the poverty guidelines if the income is lower than 100 percent of the poverty guidelines allowable deductions.

One- and two-person households that meet the applicable standard receive at least $10 a month in food stamps.

All households in which all members receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or SSI are categorically eligible for food stamps.

Net income is computed by subtracting the following deductions from monthly gross income:

1. Twenty percent of earned income.

2. Standard deduction of $134 for fiscal year 2002 for households with one to four members, $147 for households with five members, and $168 for households with six or more members.

3. Amount paid for dependent care (up to $200 a month for each child under age 2 and $175 for all other dependents) while the dependent's caretaker is working or looking for work.

4. Out-of-pocket medical expenses in excess of a $35 deductible for a person aged 60 or older or a disabled person. If more than one person in the household is aged or disabled, $35 is subtracted once before deducting combined medical expenses.

5. Legally owed child support payments.

6. Excess shelter expenses, which is total shelter costs including utilities minus 50 percent of income after all the above deductions have been subtracted. Effective October 1, 2002, the limit was $367. The limit does not apply to households with an aged or disabled member.

Households are certified to receive food stamps for varying lengths of time, depending on their income sources and individual circumstances. Recertification is required at least annually. Households whose sole income is from SSI payments or Social Security benefits are certified for a 12month period, although states may request a waiver allowing for a 24-month certification period for these households. Households must report monthly income or expense changes of $25 or more or other changes in circumstances that would affect eligibility.

Families with income or food loss resulting from disaster situations such as tornadoes or floods may be eligible for food stamps for up to 1 month if they meet the special disaster income and asset limits.

Special provisions allow the homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics, blind, or disabled residents in certain group living arrangements, residents of shelters for battered spouses and children, and persons aged 60 or older to use their coupons for meals prepared at a nonprofit facility.

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Food Stamps
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