How Do You Qualify to Get Food Stamps?

In order to qualify for food stamps, a person must meet a variety of criteria, including resource, income and employment requirements. Special rules apply for the elderly, disabled and immigrants.

“Food stamps” is a common term for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also referred to as SNAP. In order to qualify for SNAP benefits as of 2014, applicants must meet both gross- and net-income tests. Households that include an elderly person or receive a certain type of disability payment only have to meet the net-income test.

In most states, the gross monthly income limit for a single individual as of 2014 is $1,265, which is 130 percent of the poverty level. The net monthly income, after allowable deductions, is $973, which is 100 percent of the poverty level. The limit increases for each additional member of a household. A table of gross and net monthly income limits can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website.

Some of the deductions that affect net income qualifications include a 20 percent deduction from earned income, legally owed child-support payments, and dependent-care deductions. The homeless may qualify for a shelter-cost deduction.

In most states, applicants must also meet employment requirements. Generally, able-bodied adults between 18 and 50 who don’t have dependent children must work or participate in a workfare or employment-training program in order to get SNAP benefits.

Individuals applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are required to present documents such as IRS Form W-2 or a tax return. Households with elderly, pregnant or disabled members may be eligible for additional benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As of 2013, the program provided 47.6 million Americans with an average benefit of $133.08 per month.