If you're having problems making ends meet, food stamps can be a lifesaver. Food stamps, now referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, is a food assistance program run by the United States Department of Agriculture. To find out if your eligible, and if so for how much, can be determined with a few calculations.
In order to qualify for SNAP, you have to meet certain income levels based on family size, gross income and net income. Gross income is the household's entire income before any allowable expenses are deducted, and net income is the total income after allowable expenses are subtracted. For instance, for a family size of one, the gross monthly income limit is $1,307 and net income level is 1,005. For a family size of four, $2,665 is the gross income maximum and $2,050 is the maximum net income. In most cases, a family has to meet both the gross and net income requirements. The only exception is if a household has an elderly or disabled member. In that case, the family needs to meet only the net income requirement.
Certain household expenses are deducted from the gross income to reach the net income. First, there's a 20 percent deduction from earned income. Other deductions include childcare expenses, medical expenses for disabled and elderly household members, a standard deduction of $160 for households between one and three members and a deduction of $170 for households with four or more members. In some states, child support payments are also deducted from the gross income.
Household utilities, such as electric, gas, water and basic telephone expenses, are also deducted from the gross income. Rent, mortgage and taxes are subtracted also. Unless there is a disabled or elderly member of the household, deductions are capped at $535.
How Much You Could Receive
If, after all the above calculations, you are deemed eligible to receive SNAP benefits, there is a limit on how much assistance you can receive. For a household of one, up to $192 in SNAP benefits is available. A household of two could receive an allotment up to $352, a household of three gets up to $504, up to a family of eight that could get up to $1,153. If a household has more than eight members, each additional member could receive up to $144 each.
Use the Tool
If all the math above makes you nervous, use the estimator tool found on the USDA Food Nutrition Services webpage. Once you have entered your income and expenses, the tool reports if you qualify for SNAP benefits, and if so, the approximate amount of your allotment.