Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Food Stamps

Academic journal article Social Security Bulletin

Food Stamps

Article excerpt

The Food Stamp program was designed to provide a means for persons with no or little income to obtain a nutritionally adequate diet. Under this program, single persons and individuals living in households meeting nationwide standards for income and assets may receive coupons redeemable for food for human consumption and garden seeds and plants. The benefits, which are in the form of coupons or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) payments, are accepted at most retail food stores.

The value of the benefits that a unit receives each month is determined by household size, income, and deductible expenses. 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 2000, an eligible four-person household in the continental United States with no income receives $434 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 the program, a household must have (1) less than $2,000 in disposable assets ($3,000, if one member is aged 60 or older), (2) gross income below 130 percent of the poverty guidelines for the household size, and (3) net income, after subtracting the six deductions listed below, of less than 100 percent of the poverty guidelines. 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, after subtracting the deductions listed below, the income is lower than 100 percent of the poverty guidelines. 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 to Needy Families (TANF) or SSI are categorically eligible for food stamps without meeting these income or resource criteria.

Net income is computed by deducting the following from monthly gross income:

(1) Twenty percent of earned income.

(2) A standard deduction of $134 for fiscal year 2000.

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

(4) Any 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) A child-support deduction for legally obligated child support paid for a nonhousehold member.

(6) An excess shelter deduction, which is total shelter costs including utilities minus 50 percent of income after all the above deductions have been subtracted. Effective October 1, 2000, the limit was $300. For households whose certification period began after March 1, 2001, the limit rose to $340. Households with an aged or disabled person do not have a limit on this deduction.

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 1year period. Moreover, 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. …

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