Can I Get Food Stamps While on Child Support?
The information in this article is current as of March 8, 2022. It is not intended as legal advice.
Many low-income families rely on food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as “food stamps.” SNAP provides nutritional assistance to over 42 million people, including almost 15 million children.
If you’re wondering, “Can I get food stamps (SNAP benefits) while on child support?” You can. However, your total income cannot exceed your state’s SNAP income limit. This blog article focuses on the following topics and should help answer questions about receiving food stamps (SNAP) while collecting child support:
- What Is Child Support?
- What Is the Food Stamp Program (SNAP)?
- SNAP Eligibility
- How Child Support Affects SNAP Eligibility
- SNAP Income Limits
- Alternative Food Assistance Programs
What Is Child Support?
Whether married or unmarried, when parents split up through divorce or separation, the noncustodial parent may be obligated to make monthly payments to the custodial parents for child expenses.
These payments can be discussed privately between the two adults or ordered through a legal court case.
The parent paying the child support must be legally recognized as the mother or father of the child(ren). When it comes to child support amounts, state guidelines may vary. Payment is often automatically withheld from the paying parent’s paychecks.
If the parent does not make the payments, the money may be collected through:
- Intercepted federal payments
- Withheld tax refunds
- Liens on property
- Suspension of the nonpaying parent’s license
If your child support is court-mandated, there will be legal records detailing this income under your name. However, suppose you have arranged for child support with your ex without legal documentation. In that case, the state is unaware of your child support payments unless you declare them on your tax return.
As per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), child support payments are not deductible by either party. Therefore, child support should not count towards your gross income as the receiving parent when filing your IRS return. Still, it will count towards your gross income when calculating your eligibility for SNAP.
What Is the Food Stamps Program?
SNAP provides nutritional assistance to needy families. Each state determines the maximum income cap for an individual or family to be eligible for SNAP. You can find out about your state’s requirements here or keep reading to compare the SNAP eligibility income limits of the states with the highest SNAP participation rates.
States may have different names for their SNAP program, but all have the same process.
After applying to and being approved for SNAP benefits in your state, you’ll receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. Like a debit card, this card automatically receives benefits every month you’re enrolled in the program.
Below are the maximum allotments onto the EBT card by household size.
|Household Size||Maximum EBT Amount (monthly)|
According to your local governing agency, you must reapply to SNAP every 6-12 months. If your family’s income increases dramatically, you should inform your local SNAP office to ensure transparency and avoid committing fraud.
Families can use their EBT cards to purchase:
- Meat, fish, and poultry
- Bread and cereals
- Fruits and veggies
- Snacks and nonalcoholic drinks
- Seeds and plants that produce food
These items must be purchased through an eligible store. Most major grocery stores and retailers like Walmart and Target accept EBT cards. In addition, some online shops, such as Amazon grocery, may also accept EBT cards.
To participate in SNAP, you’ll need to meet three main criteria.
First, you’ll need to meet the gross monthly income requirement. Monthly income includes all money flowing into your family from jobs, child support payments, Social Security, unemployment assistance, other assistance programs, gifts, etc.
Usually, SNAP programs require you to be making 130% of the poverty line or less monthly. As of 2002, a family of three is equal to a cap of $2,379 per month or slightly over $28,500 per year. Remember that gross monthly income is before deductions and taxes are applied.
The second criterium is calculating your net income. This must be at or below the poverty line. Remember that net income is after all deductions and taxes are applied. Deductions for this calculation may include:
- A 20% deduction from earned income
- A standard deduction of $177 for households with 1-3 members and $184 for 4 people
- Dependent care deduction when needed for training, education, or work
- Monthly medical expenses of $35+ for the elderly or disabled
- Excess shelter costs
- And other deductions as determined by the state
Finally, your assets must fall below the set limits. For example, standard households should have less than $3,750 in assets. In contrast, those with an elderly (60+) individual or someone with a disability should have $2,500 or less in assets.
- Money in savings or checking accounts
- Properties other than the residence
Assets do not include:
- Retirement savings
- Your main residence
- Personal property
- Most vehicles (check with your state’s requirements)
These criteria are set at a federal level but may vary by state. Be sure to check with your state’s SNAP program to determine your eligibility.
How Child Support Affects SNAP Eligibility
Although it is nontaxable income, SNAP counts child support payments as gross income. This means you must add it to any other income you have when determining if you’re eligible for SNAP.
Depending on how much child support you receive, this may bump you up past the SNAP limits for receiving benefits. When your other income is low and you’re still under the limits, you can continue receiving both SNAP benefits and child support without issue.
Some people may try hiding their child support payments when applying for SNAP if they receive payments under the table. The family receiving benefits will be cut off if:
- Misinformation is discovered
- The other parent is reporting payments on their taxes or other documents
The individual applicant could face up to one year in jail and a substantial fine. It pays to be honest when completing your SNAP application.
SNAP Income Limits
Below are the income limits in the ten states with the highest SNAP participation rates.
- California: The CalFresh Program goes by the federal guidelines dictated above
- Florida: Households must have a gross income of 200% or less of the federal poverty level.
- Georgia: Georgia’s income limits are annual. They are $17,667 for 1 person, $23,803 for 2 people, $29,939 for 3 people, and $36,075 for 4 people.
- Illinois: The monthly gross income limit is $1,755 for 1 person, $2,371 for 2 people, $2,987 for 3 people, and $3,603 for 4 people.
- Michigan: Michigan’s income limits are annual. are annual. They are $17,667 for 1 person, $23,803 for 2 people, $29,939 for 3 people, and $36,075 for 4 people.
- New York: The monthly gross income limit is $1,396 for 1 person, $1,888 for 2 people, $2,379 for 3 people, and $2,871 for 4 people.
- North Carolina: North Carolina’s gross monthly income limits are $1,396 for 1 person, $1,888 for 2 people, $2,379 for 3 people, and $2,871 for 4 people.
- Ohio: Ohio follows the federal guidelines.
- Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania follows the federal guidelines.
- Texas: The Texas SNAP limits the monthly income amount to $1,775 for 1 person, $2,396 for 2 people, $3,020 for 3 people, and $3,644 for 4 people.
See the USDA website for information about states’ income limits not listed above.
Alternative Food Assistance Programs
Suppose you don’t qualify for SNAP because of your monthly income but still find it challenging to meet your nutritional needs. In that case, you may be eligible for an alternative food assistance program.
Alternative federal programs for food assistance are:
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program provides short-term hunger relief through emergency food providers.
- The Commodity Supplemental Food Program provides food assistance for low-income seniors in addition to a monthly commodities package.
- The Child and Adult Care Food Program provide food to kids and adults in designated child and adult care centers.
- The National School Lunch Program provides food to qualified children in school daily.
- The School Breakfast Program provides breakfast to qualified children in school daily.
- The Summer Food Service Program provides food to qualified children during the summer holidays.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide food and nutrition education for low-income, at-risk women and infants.
Most states and counties also offer food assistance programs for those living in the area. These include county food banks, church food pantries, and independent programs. You can Google “your city food assistance/food banks” or “food assistance/food pantries near me” for more information.
Lifeline Free Monthly Wireless Service
Did you know that if you qualify for food stamps or SNAP, you also qualify for Lifeline service? This federal benefits program gives low-income consumers free or massively discounted communication services.
Lifeline helps subsidize the cost of wireless cell phones and internet services. More than 35 million people qualify for free monthly wireless service. In addition, you may be eligible for Lifeline through income level or participation in other federal programs. It might be a good idea to research this to help you save on your phone and internet service costs.