To get SNAP benefits, you must apply in the State in which you currently live and you must meet certain requirements, including resource and income limits, which are described on this page. SNAP income and resource limits are updated annually. The information on this page is for Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.
There are special SNAP rules for households with elderly or disabled members.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I eligible for SNAP?
- How do I apply for SNAP?
- Where can I get my State information?
- What happens when I apply for SNAP?
- How do I receive SNAP benefits?
- How long will I receive SNAP?
- Who is in a SNAP household?
- What resources can I have (and still get SNAP benefits)?
- What are the SNAP income limits?
- What deductions are allowed in SNAP?
- SNAP Excess Shelter Costs Deduction
- How much could I receive in SNAP benefits?
- What are the SNAP work requirements?
- Are non-citizens eligible for SNAP?
- What if I disagree with a decision made on my SNAP case?
- Nondiscrimination in SNAP
- Where can I get additional information about SNAP?
Your household must meet certain requirements to be eligible for SNAP and receive benefits. If your State agency determines that you are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, you will receive benefits back to the date you submitted your application.
You must apply for SNAP in the State where you currently live. Because each State has a different application form and process, a member of your household must contact your State agency directly to apply.
You can contact your State agency by visiting your local SNAP office, visiting your State agency’s website, or calling your State’s toll-free SNAP Information hotline. Some States have online applications that can be completed from the State agency website.
If you are unable to go to or call your local SNAP office or do not have access to the internet, you may have another person act as an authorized representative by applying and being interviewed on your behalf. You must designate the authorized representative in writing.
Note: Please contact your SNAP State agency directly to apply and to request information about the status of your application. FNS does not process applications or have access to case information.
In most cases, once you submit your application, your State agency or local SNAP office will process it and send you a notice telling you whether or not you are eligible for benefits within 30 days.
During the 30 days, you will need to complete an eligibility interview and give proof (verification) of the information you provided. The interview is typically completed over the telephone or in-person. If you are found eligible, you will receive benefits based on the date you submitted your application.
You may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits within 7 days of your application date if you meet additional requirements. For example, if your household has less than $100 in liquid resources and $150 in monthly gross income, or if your household’s combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than what you pay each month for rent or mortgage and utilities expenses. Contact your State agency for additional details.
If you are found eligible, you will receive SNAP benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card. Benefits are automatically loaded into your account each month. You can use your EBT card to buy groceries at authorized food stores and retailers.
- When Are SNAP Benefits Available?
- What Can SNAP Buy?
- What is Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)?
- Where Can I Use SNAP?
If you are found eligible, you will receive a notice that tells you how long you will receive SNAP benefits for; this is called your certification period. Before your certification period ends, you will receive another notice that says you must recertify to continue receiving benefits. Your local SNAP office will provide you with information about how to recertify.
Everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares meals together is grouped together as one SNAP household.
Some people who live together, such as spouses and most children under age 22, are included in the same SNAP household, even if they purchase and prepare meals separately.
If a person is 60 years of age or older and unable to purchase and prepare meals separately because of a permanent disability, the person and the person's spouse may be a separate SNAP household if the others they live with do not have very much income (no more than 165 percent of the poverty level).
Normally you are not eligible for SNAP benefits if an institution gives you most of your meals. There are exceptions for elderly persons and disabled persons.
Currently, households may have $2,250 in countable resources (such as cash or money in a bank account) or $3,500 in countable resources if at least one member of the household is age 60 or older, or is disabled. These amounts are updated annually.
However, certain resources are NOT counted when determining eligibility for SNAP:
- A home and lot;
- Resources of people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI);
- Resources of people who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF; also known as welfare); and
- Most retirement and pension plans (withdrawals from these accounts may count as either income or resources depending on how often they occur).
Vehicles count as a resource for SNAP purposes. States determine how vehicles may count toward household resources.
Licensed vehicles are NOT counted if they are:
- Used for income-producing purposes (e.g., taxi, truck or delivery vehicle);
- Annually producing income consistent with their fair market value;
- Needed for long distance travel for work (other than daily commute);
- Used as the home;
- Needed to transport a physically disabled household member;
- Needed to carry most of the household's fuel or water; or
- If the sale of the vehicle would result in less than $1,500.
For non-excluded licensed vehicles, the fair market value over $4,650 counts as a resource.
Licensed vehicles are also subject to an equity test, which is the fair market value less any amount owed on the vehicle. The following vehicles are excluded from the equity test:
- One vehicle per adult household member; and
- Any other vehicle used by a household member under 18 to drive to work, school, job training, or to look for work.
For vehicles with both a fair market value over $4,650 and an equity value, the greater of the two amounts is counted as a resource.
Additionally, the equity value of unlicensed vehicles generally counts as a resource, with some exceptions.
In most cases, your household must meet both the gross and net income limits described below or you are not eligible for SNAP and cannot receive benefits.
Gross income means a household's total, non-excluded income, before any deductions have been made.
Net income means gross income minus allowable deductions.
A household with an elderly or disabled person only has to meet the net income limit, as described on the elderly and disabled page.
If all members of your household are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or in some places other general assistance, your household may be deemed “categorically eligible” for SNAP because you have already been determined eligible for another means-tested program.
The information provided in the table below applies to households in the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia that apply for SNAP between Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.
|Household Size||Gross monthly income
(130 percent of poverty)
|Net monthly income
(100 percent of poverty)
|Each additional member||+$479||+$369|
* SNAP gross and net income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii.
The following deductions are allowed for SNAP:
- A 20-percent deduction from earned income.
- A standard deduction of $167 for household sizes of 1 to 3 people and $178 for a household size of 4 (higher for some larger households and for households in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam).
- A dependent care deduction when needed for work, training, or education.
- Medical expenses for elderly or disabled members that are more than $35 for the month if they are not paid by insurance or someone else. This is described on the elderly and disabled page.
- In some States, legally owed child support payments.
- In some States, a standard shelter deduction for homeless households of $152.06.
- Excess shelter costs as described below.
The shelter deduction is for shelter costs that are more than half of the household's income after other deductions.
Allowable shelter costs include:
- Fuel to heat and cook with.
- The basic fee for one telephone.
- Rent or mortgage payments and interest.
- Taxes on the home.
Some States allow a set amount for utility costs instead of actual costs.
The amount of the shelter deduction is capped at (or limited to) $569 unless one person in the household is elderly or disabled. The limit is higher in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam. For a household with an elderly or disabled member all shelter costs over half of the household's income may be deducted.
|Gross Income Calculation||Example|
|Determine household size . . .||4 people with no elderly or disabled members.|
|Add gross monthly income . . .||$1,500 earned income + $550 social security = $2,050 gross income.|
|If gross monthly income is less than the limit for household size, determine net income.||$2,050 is less than the $2,790 allowed for a 4-person household, so determine net income.|
|Net Income Calculation||Example for a 4-person household|
|Subtract 20% earned income deduction . . .||$2,050 gross income
$1,500 earned income x 20% = $300. $2,050 - $300 = $1,750
|Subtract standard deduction . . .||$1,750 - $178 standard deduction for a 4-person household = $1,572|
|Subtract dependent care deduction . . .||$1,572 - $362 dependent care = $1,210|
|Subtract child support deduction . . .||$0|
|Subtract medical costs over $35 for elderly and disabled . . .||$0|
|Excess shelter deduction . . .||See below|
|Determine half of adjusted income . . .||$1,210 adjusted income/2 = $605|
|Determine if shelter costs are more than half of adjusted income . . .||$700 total shelter - $605 (half of income) = $95 excess shelter cost|
|Subtract excess amount, but not more than the limit, from adjusted income . . .||$1,210 - $95 = $1,115 net monthly income|
|Apply the net income test . . .||Since $1,115 is less than $2,146 allowed for 4-person household, this household has met the income test.|
The total amount of SNAP benefits your household gets each month is called an allotment.
Because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their own resources on food, your allotment is calculated by multiplying your household’s net monthly income by 0.3, and subtracting the result from the maximum monthly allotment for your household size.
|People in Household||Maximum Monthly Allotment|
|Each additional person||+$146|
Note: The allotments described here are for households in the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia. The allotments are different in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
|Multiply net income by 30%... (Round up)||$1,115 net monthly income x 0.3 = 334.5 (round up to $335)|
|Subtract 30% of net income from the maximum allotment for the household size...||$646 maximum allotment for 4-person household - $335 (30% of net income) = $311, SNAP Allotment for a full month|
In general, people must meet work requirements to be eligible for SNAP. These work requirements include:
- Registering for work;
- Not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing hours;
- Taking a job if offered; and
- Participating in employment and training programs, if assigned by the State.
Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the Program.
In addition, able bodied adults without dependents are required to work or participate in a work program for at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits for more than 3 months in a 36-month period.
Some special groups may not be subject to these requirements including:
- Pregnant women; and
- People who are exempt for physical or mental health reasons.
SNAP eligibility has never been extended to undocumented non-citizens. Specific requirements for non-citizens who may be eligible have changed substantially over the years and become more complicated in certain areas. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 limits eligibility for SNAP benefits to U.S. citizens and certain lawfully present non-citizens.
Generally, to qualify for SNAP, non-citizens must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have lived in the United States for at least 5 years.
- Be receiving disability-related assistance or benefits.
- Be children under 18.
Additionally, these individuals must also satisfy other SNAP eligibility requirements such as income and resource limits in order to qualify for benefits.
If certain members of a household are ineligible for SNAP, State agencies must still determine eligibility for SNAP for any remaining household members who are seeking assistance.
If you disagree with a decision in your case, you may request a fair hearing with an official who is required by law to review the facts of your case in a fair and objective manner.
You must request a fair hearing within 90 days of the day your local SNAP office made the decision in your case that you disagree with.
You can request a fair hearing over the phone, in writing, or in person at the local SNAP office.
Although a fair hearing cannot change the laws or regulations governing SNAP, it can ensure that decisions on your case have been made correctly.
SNAP benefits are available to all eligible households regardless of race, sex, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs.
The USDA prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital and family status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.) Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication of program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of credible, Room 326- W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
For additional information about SNAP in your State, to file an application for SNAP benefits, or to get information about your SNAP case, you must contact your local SNAP office. Where Can I Get My State Information?