Who’s eligible for SNAP benefits?
In order to receive SNAP food stamp benefits in Massachusetts, one must be a resident of the state, have a social security number and meet financial and work requirements.
Spouses, families or any number of people who live in the same house and buy and prepare food together are considered to be households.
SNAP requires people to work at least 30 hours a week but there are many exceptions, including those who are:
■ Under 18 or over 59
■ In the second or third trimester of pregnancy
■ Physically or mentally disabled
■ Caring for a child under age 6 or caring for an incapacitated person
■ Meeting work requirements of another assistance program
■ Getting unemployment compensation benefits and meeting program requirements
■ Taking part in an approved drug of alcohol treatment program
■ Attending college, half-time or more
One must also meet eligibility requirements using either a monthly gross income (total income, including deductions) or a monthly net income (total income minus deductions).
There are certain rules for each type of deductions but some people will be able to deduct taxes, medical expenses, childcare, rent or mortgage and utility costs when calculating their monthly net income
Households that receive transitional aid to families with dependent children, supplemental security income or emergency aid for elderly, disabled and children have no income requirements.
Here are some examples of households that would qualify for SNAP benefits:
■ A household of four with a pregnant woman or at least one child under 19 with a total monthly gross income (no deductions) under $3,925
■ A household of two with at least one person over 60 or disabled with a total monthly net income (including deductions) under $1,261
■ A single individual above 19 with a monthly gross income under $1,211 and a monthly net income under $931
■ A household of six individuals above 19 with a monthly gross income under $3,356 and a monthly net income under $2,581
For more information and to see all the rules relating to SNAP in Massachusetts, go to www.massresources.org/snap-general-eligibility.html.
Who receives benefits?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 44.7 million people living in 21.1 million United States households received benefits each month in 2012.
About 45 percent of those recipients were children and 9 percent were 60 or older.
Seventeen percent of SNAP households were above the poverty line, 43 percent were at or below the line and 20 percent had no cash income of any kind.
About 30 percent of households received earnings for work; about 41 percent of SNAP participants lived in a household with earnings.
Eight percent of SNAP-enrolled households received federal cash welfare benefits and 4 percent received state welfare benefits. Over 22 percent received social security and 20 percent received supplemental security income.
How do people apply?
In Massachusetts, people submit applications for SNAP benefits to the Department of Transitional Assistance, via mail, fax or online.
DTA conducts an over-the-phone interview with a client, said Mary Loughlin, SNAP and nutrition program manager for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. People are sometimes asked to send in documents proving their qualifications, she said.
The state is understaffed but still responds with an approval or denial within 30 days, said Loughlin.
For more information, go to: www.mass.gov/snap.
— CHRIS SHORES