Can You Get Food Stamps If You Work?
This information is current as of April 25, 2022.
Some people think you must earn little or no money to get food stamps and other benefits, but this isn’t the case. So, can you get food stamps if you work?
You can and should work if you want to get food stamps. However, the federal government has specific work requirements for non-disabled adults if they stay eligible for food stamps for more than three months. These requirements depend on factors, such as if you have kids.
Let’s break it all down to understand the work requirements for food stamps.
Working While on Food Stamps
Not only can you get food stamps while working, but it’s a federal law that if a person can work, they must if they want to receive food stamps. SNAP, the food stamp program, has two sets of requirements for adults to receive food stamps.
The first set of requirements is for adults with dependents, while the second is for adults with no dependents. Dependents are usually children or a relative, and they must be claimed on your tax returns.
Working Adults with Dependents
Adults ages 16-59 who have at least one dependent and receive food stamps must meet the general work requirements. This includes:
- Register for work
- Participate in a workfare program or the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program if assigned by your state SNAP agency
- Not voluntarily quit a job or reduce work hours below 30 hours a week without a good reason OR
- To take a suitable job when offered
People are excused from the general work requirements if they’re already working at least 30 hours a week or they earn wages that are at least equal to the federal minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours.
You are also exempt if you:
- Meet work requirements from another program like TANF or unemployment compensation
- Take care of a child under six years old or an incapacitated person
- Are unable to work due to physical or mental limitations
- Regularly participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program
- Are studying half-time at a school or training program.
Working Adults With No Dependents
The second work requirement for food stamps is the Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) work requirement for those 18-49 who have no dependents. This group of adults has to meet the general work requirements listed above plus more to receive food stamps for more than three months in three years.
To meet the additional work requirements, you must work at least 80 hours a month. This includes work for pay, unpaid or volunteer work, or work for goods or services. You could also participate in a work program for at least 80 hours a month, such as SNAP Employment and Training or another local, state, or federal work program.
You can participate in a combination of work and work programs if the total hours meet at least 80 a month. You can also join in workfare for the number of hours you give each month.
You may be exempt from these additional work requirements if you:
- Can’t work due to physical or mental limitations
- Are pregnant, have someone under 18 years old in your SNAP household, or
- Meet any of the exemptions of the general work requirements listed above
These requirements are at the federal level, but some states have additional work requirements.
Who Are Food Stamps For?
Food stamps are for low-income individuals or families who need help buying food each month and meet specific requirements based on resource and income limits. Low-income families are grouped into SNAP households, including everyone who lives together and purchases and prepare meals together. Click here to see if you or your family are eligible for food stamps.
What Happens to My Benefits If I Don’t Work?
If you don’t meet the general work requirements, you will be disqualified from food stamps for one month for the first instance, three months for the second, and six months for the third.
You must meet the work requirements for 30 days to get SNAP again. After the third instance of not meeting the general work requirements, you could lose the benefits forever.
SNAP Income Limits
To receive SNAP food stamps, households typically need to meet two federal income limits—gross and net income. Gross income and net income.
In terms of income limits, to receive SNAP food stamps, households typically need to meet two federal income limits—gross and net income. Gross income and net income.
Gross income means a household’s total income before any deductions have been made. Net income means gross income minus allowable deductions.
The number of people living in your household determines the monthly income limit you must fall under to receive food stamps. For example, if only one person lives in the home, you must meet a gross monthly income of $1,396 and a net monthly income of $1,074. On the other hand, a family of 8 needs a gross monthly income of $4,839 and a net monthly income of $3,722 to qualify.
There are a few exceptions. A household with an elderly or disabled person only has to meet the net income limit. Suppose all the members of your household already receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or another general assistance program. In that case, you are already eligible for SNAP benefits.
When figuring out your net and gross income, you’ll need to figure out your income and deductions. Income is any cash source, including earned income and unearned income such as social security, cash assistance, child support, and unemployment insurance.
Deductions are what you can subtract from your gross income to get your net income (gross income – deductions = net income). Deductions include things like:
- A 20% deduction from earned income
- Deductions for dependent care when needed for education, training, or work. This deduction is $177 for a household size of one to three people and $184 for four people
- A deduction for medical expenses for the elderly or disabled household members if they are more than $35 a month and not paid for by insurance or someone else
- In some states, deductions can include legally owed child support payments as well as a deduction of $159.73 for homeless households
Jobs You Can Work While on Food Stamps
There are many job opportunities for people on food stamps, and your employer doesn’t have to know you are receiving SNAP benefits. Just make sure the job meets the work requirements and income limits for your specific situation so that you still qualify for food stamps. Entry-level jobs are an excellent place to start in industries such as hospitality, restaurants, construction, and in-office settings.
Do “Under-the-Table” Jobs Count Towards Income Requirements?
On a federal level, income requirements only look at the net and gross income from all sources – including earned income and unearned income such as child support or Social Security. However, this does differ state by state, so it’s important to double-check your specific situation.
“Under the table” jobs are those that don’t report to the IRS or pay taxes.
Cash-paying jobs must still legally be reported as taxable income for SNAP.
It’s vital to include under-the-table income if you have it; otherwise, you could be facing misdemeanor charges.
Depending on your state, working under the table will not permanently disqualify you from food assistance if you include that income in your net and gross income requirements. Unfortunately, certain states require proof of income, such as a paystub, which means work may not count towards work requirements under the table.
Can My SNAP Benefits Be Frozen If I Work?
If you work and still meet the requirements to receive food stamps, you will still receive the monthly SNAP allotment on your EBT card. However, if your benefits are frozen, here are some reasons why and how to fix them.
Any money not used on your EBT card within a month will carry over to the next month. However, you’ll be permanently removed from your account if you don’t use the EBT card for nine months.
Some states will remove benefits after as little as 4.5 months.
If you work and no longer meet the income limit requirements to receive food stamps, your SNAP case will be closed. However, you can use it if you still have money on the card after a closed case.
You can get food stamps while you work. However, you must meet specific work requirements to be eligible to receive food stamps. Luckily, SNAP offers help for those seeking employment through their E&T and workfare programs.
The SNAP program helps millions of families across the United States afford healthy food every month. If you and your family are struggling financially, a local SNAP agency is only a call away.
Click here to find SNAP office contact information by state, and remember, you are not alone. A program like SNAP can help you get back on your feet, have access to healthy fresh food, offer employment training, and even help you find a job to pay for the well-being of your family.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
Want to save money on your wireless phone service? When you qualify for government benefit programs like SNAP, you may also qualify for Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Both Lifeline and ACP are government-run programs that help low-income consumers receive free or heavily discounted communication services.
Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.