Am I Eligible for SNAP? Changes For 2022
The information in this article is current as of October 25, 2021.
It’s no surprise to most of us that the cost of food has consistently gone up over the past decade, and grocery prices are the highest they’ve ever been. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average family spent nearly $412 a month eating at home. So if your budget is already squeezed tight and you’re wondering how you will continue to put food on the table, there may be help in sight.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is what most people know as food stamps. SNAP benefits provide low-income individuals and families with funds to use on grocery items for the household. The amount of benefit you are eligible for depends on your income and family size, and these funds can be used for food to prepare at home.
If you are interested in learning more about SNAP benefits and wondering, “am I eligible for SNAP?” read on. Some changes to the program may impact your benefit amount. The good news is that benefits are increasing significantly for the first time.
What Is SNAP?
SNAP is meant to provide grocery items to low-income households. Once your benefit is determined, you get an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to use, like a debit card at grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and other places that accept the EBT card.
The money can only be used for household grocery items and not for things such as prepared foods that are hot at the time of purchase, pet foods, household items such as cleaning supplies, paper products, supplements, alcohol, or tobacco.
The federal government funds the SNAP program, but each state has its requirements and application process and disburses the funds. While the USDA and the Department of Agriculture ultimately set the general income limits and benefit amounts for SNAP, the states determine additional eligibility and handle the application process.
To be eligible for SNAP, you have to meet specific income requirements. Each state dictates these requirements. For example, in South Carolina, you are eligible if you meet the following criteria:
- Have a bank balance under $2,001 (checking and savings combined) or
- Have a bank balance under $3,001 (checking and savings combined) and share your home with someone over the age of 60 or a person with a disability (including you, your child, your spouse, or your parent).
In addition to limits on your bank balance, you must also meet income requirements. For example, if you have a household size of 4 people, your income cannot exceed $34,450.
Your household includes yourself and everyone who lives in your home and purchases and prepares food together. For example, if you have a child under 22, they are always considered a member of your household, even if they prepare their food. Likewise, elderly and disabled members of your household are included if you buy and make food together.
SNAP Benefit Amounts
The most significant changes to the SNAP program are the increases in benefit amounts recently enacted by the Biden Administration. This increase is the largest in the history of the SNAP program and is meant to better reflect the cost of putting food on the table.
The average monthly benefit before the increase was $121, and under the new rules, the average amount will increase by about $36 to $157.
SNAP amounts are determined by the Thrifty Food Plan, which is the federal government’s assessment of the cost of groceries needed to provide a family of four (two adults and two children) nutritious food for a week. The plan uses an algorithm that considers the price of 58 different grocery categories, nutrition recommendations, and budget-conscious shopping to determine how much it costs to feed that family of four.
Some of the categories considered by the Thrifty Food Plan include:
- Dark green vegetables
- Whole fruit
The food plan also creates plans based on different families and considers that groceries may cost more in some areas than others. The Thrifty Food Plan is released each year in August, and then any changes made based on the report go into effect on October 1 each year.
SNAP Benefit Changes for 2022
The changes in the SNAP benefit amount are based on an updated Thrifty Food Plan that more realistically estimates how much it costs to purchase groceries to feed a family of four in the U.S. Because of the constant increase in grocery prices, the government recognized that the SNAP benefit amounts weren’t providing sufficient support to those individuals and families that needed the assistance.
The significant change includes an increase in the maximum allotment. In the 48 states and Washington D.C., the new benefit amount for a family of four is $835. In Alaska, the range will be between $1,074 and $1,667; in Hawaii, the maximum benefit is $1,573; and in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the maximum amount is $1,074.
The minimum benefit amount is also increasing to $20 in the 48 states and Washington D.C. and will increase in Alaska, Hawaii, and the U.S. territories.
Not only do these changes impact the SNAP benefits for 2022, but they also make permanent the new algorithm used by the Thrifty Food Plan. Initially developed in the 1960s, the Thrifty Food Plan has been criticized as being out of date. This is because it was developed when typically only one parent worked, leaving another parent home to make more involved meals from scratch.
With many households having two working parents, the calculation needs to consider that quicker, easier meals are the norm.
Further, the original formula also didn’t consider that food costs more in certain areas. It treated 48 states the same and only gave a more considerable benefit to those in Alaska or Hawaii, but we know many states and cities with more expensive food prices. The increase will help offset these costs.
What Hasn’t Changed
While the benefit amount has changed, what hasn’t changed is what you can use SNAP benefits for. As before, SNAP benefits can be used for grocery items but cannot be used for hot foods at the point of sale, alcohol and tobacco, household supplies, or pet food.
There is also a three-month limit for individuals between 18 and 50 who are not working or in a work or training program at least 20 hours a week. In addition, these individuals are limited to three months of SNAP benefits out of every three years.
Some individuals are exempt, including those who have children in the household, pregnant women, and those deemed to be physically or mentally unfit for work. Also, states with high and sustained unemployment levels can suspend the three-month limit.
This requirement was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will likely be reinstated at some point. Other states also suspended their mandatory training or job search rules as well.
Applying for SNAP Benefits
If you are eligible for SNAP benefits, you can apply through your state agency that administers these benefits. Most states have an online application, or you may be able to apply in person. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a map and list of the agency in each state that handles SNAP applications and benefits administration.
You also may be eligible for additional benefits, such as Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), which helps with funds for things like childcare, transportation, and employment assistance for those who have children and are searching for jobs.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits are also available for households with pregnant women or children under 5. These funds can be used for baby formula, milk and dairy products, fruits and produce, grains, and other healthy grocery items.
Am I Eligible for SNAP?
The best way to answer the question “am I eligible for SNAP?” is to contact your local agency administering the benefits. They will typically have a shortlist of basic eligibility questions on their website or in their office that you can use to determine potential eligibility.
If you think you might qualify for SNAP benefits, you can formally apply. The agency administering SNAP will ask for income and household information. They will verify this information and determine your eligibility as well as your benefit amount.
Don’t let benefits that you qualify for go unused. Instead, take advantage of the assistance programs provided to Americans, so you can have a healthy diet and feed your family healthy food.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
If you qualify for SNAP benefits, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.