If you have heard the term “food stamps” at some point, then you have heard of the nutrition assistance program that uses Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. This program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If you are having a hard time with the cost of groceries, then you are not alone. Fortunately, there are opportunities for relief! EBT cards play a role in how SNAP works, but how do they work exactly? This article will clear that up!
Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards: What Are They?
Many people have heard of EBT cards but aren’t sure exactly how they work. EBT has been the primary way for SNAP recipients to spend their funds for over 15 years, because they make it easy and convenient! However, there are two important things to note. First, not all grocery items are eligible for purchase. Later in this article, we will cover what types of grocery items are included. Second, only approved retailers accept EBT as a form of payment. These cards, which work similarly to debit cards, play a main role in the electronic system that SNAP uses to distribute benefits to its recipients.
Another way that EBT cards have been utilized by the government is for temporary assistance programs. An example of this is a program that originated as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT). Some states have approved their schools to run this program for the 2022-2023 school year.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Explained
SNAP is a federal government program provided by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Understanding how SNAP works plays a large part in knowing how EBT cards can help you. The main goal of the program is to provide assistance for grocery costs to low-income families. Recipients are required to meet certain criteria to qualify. For this reason, not everyone can receive benefits from this program.
How Much Does SNAP Help?
SNAP predetermines the maximum amount of benefits that can be awarded to a qualifying household. The exact amount of assistance each recipient can receive is based on their specific situation. The following maximums are applicable for October 1st, 2022 – September 30th, 2023, in most states that provide SNAP:
- 1 household member – maximum benefit of $281
- 2 household members – maximum benefit of $516
- 3 household members – maximum benefit of $740
- 4 household members – maximum benefit of $939
- 5 household members – maximum benefit of $1,116
- 6 household members – maximum benefit of $1,339
- 7 household members – maximum benefit of $1,480
- 8 household members – maximum benefit of $1,691
- Households with more than 8 members can receive a maximum benefit of $211 per additional person
While the maximum number of benefits is not guaranteed to any recipient, these amounts should give you a good idea of how much the program can help! Keep in mind that these numbers are subject to change each year.
Can You Buy Any Grocery Item With SNAP?
We mentioned previously that there are items that are commonly found in grocery stores that aren’t approved for purchase with EBT. SNAP has provided its recipients with a list of items that are and are not approved for purchase such as non-food items, certain live animals, and more. Alternatively, the following items are approved for purchase using EBT:
- Produce like fruit and vegetables
- Fish, poultry, and meat
- Dairy products
- Snack foods
- Grains like cereal and bread
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- Plants and seeds that grow food for the household to eat
Applying for SNAP
The exact application process is different depending on what state you live in. However, there are a few steps in the process that you can likely expect. Typically, applicants go through a 30-day waiting period after submitting their application. This is the time that it takes your SNAP office to review your application. During this time, it is common for an applicant to complete an eligibility interview. In addition to this, applicants need to provide documents that back up the information stated on their application. Finally, after your local office finishes processing the application, you are notified if you qualify or not. If you are interested in applying for SNAP benefits, the first step you need to take is to get in contact with your state agency. A few ways that you can do this include over the phone, in person, or online.
How Long Does SNAP Assistance Last For?
Every SNAP recipient is notified of their certification period. This is how long you are eligible to get assistance for. Once this period expires, the recipient needs to recertify in order to continue to receive benefits. If you do not recertify, then you will stop getting assistance after that time.
When You Don’t Agree With the Decision SNAP Made
There are steps you can take if you don’t agree with the decision SNAP made on your application. When that happens, you can request a fair hearing for your application to be reviewed once more. It is important to note that fair hearing requests must be made within 90 days of when you received SNAP’s decision. During this process, your application is reviewed by an official who is legally obligated to do so objectively and fairly. You can request a hearing online, over the phone, or in person! It doesn’t matter how you reach out, but you have different ways to choose from.
EBT cards are a part of the electronic system that allows SNAP to distribute benefits to its recipients. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly assistance for food items to low-income households. Recipients of SNAP can’t use their EBT to purchase any and all types of grocery items. Only approved food items can be bought. In addition, not every store accepts EBT as a form of payment. Recipients can shop with their benefits at approved retailers. If you find yourself having a hard time with the cost of groceries, you could benefit from this program! To see if you are eligible for the program, contact your state or local SNAP office!