What are EBT food stamps?


Quick Answer

Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, is a government-issued card intended to assist low-income families obtain food and other necessities for free or at a discounted rate. The program, also referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is available in all 50 states.

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Full Answer

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program used to be referred to as "food stamps," because members of the program were given physical stamps to buy food. Funds are now released monthly to the member's EBT card, which works similarly to a debit card. The program was renamed SNAP in 2008 by Congress.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the program, which was fully implemented in 2004. Eligibility for the program depends on factors including age, household income, household expenses and assets. While eligibility factors may differ slightly from state to state, all SNAP-eligible households must meet income requirements. These factors also determine the amount individuals and families receive monthly.

While the Department of Agriculture sets general guidelines and regulations for the program, individual states decide how to implement and run SNAP. While users can buy most food products with their EBT cards, some items may not be bought with SNAP funds, including alcohol and tobacco.

Many retailers accept EBT, including grocery stores, convenience stores and even some fast food restaurants.

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