If you're enrolled in your state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, popularly known as food stamps, your benefits are not automatically renewed once your benefit period comes to an end. You must reapply -- preferably before your current benefits are terminated, to prevent delay. Depending on the procedure in your state, you'll submit either a renewal application or start from scratch with a new application.
Expiration of Benefits
Prior to your food stamp benefits coming to an end, your state's social services agency likely will send you a letter notifying you of the upcoming termination date. Depending on your state, the letter may advise you to reapply before this date so your benefits are not prematurely stopped, or instruct you on the steps you must take to renew your benefits. For example, in California, you must submit a new application for food stamps to continue receiving benefits. However, other jurisdictions, like Georgia and Washington D.C., require you to submit a renewal application, sometimes called re-certification.
If your state requires you to submit a renewal application to continue receiving food stamps, it will inform you as to the specific forms you need to fill out. In Washington, D.C., you must complete the Combined Application for Benefits form. Although it can be downloaded from the Department of Human Services' website, it cannot be submitted online after you have completed it. Instead, submit the completed application to DHS by mail or in person. In Georgia, not only can you obtain a renewal application, you also can renew your benefits online through COMPASS, the state's client services portal.
Although you recently received food stamps, states must still determine your continued eligibility. That is why renewal applications ask for similar information as the initial application for food stamp benefits. This includes the identities of everyone living in your household as well as the income each of you contributes and where it comes from. You also will be asked about your expenses and assets. Your case worker may ask for additional documentation, such as paycheck stubs and bank account statements, or conduct an in-person or phone interview to go over any matters that require clarification. Although the specific procedure varies between states, you should receive written notice of your eligibility within 30 days of receiving your renewal application.
Account Closed or New Application Required
If you must submit a new food stamp application, either because your state requires one or because your existing food stamp account has been closed, you can typically obtain it online, in person or by mail. You can return the application in person or by mail in every state, but some states, such as Indiana and Ohio, also make it possible to complete and submit the application online. You'll need to include your personal details, such as Social Security number and date of birth, income and expenses, as well as that of other members of your household. If you want to check whether you qualify before applying, many states provide an eligibility or screening tool on their DHS websites. You also will be required to submit proof of the information provided on your application. Acceptable documents tend to include such things as a driver's license, birth certificate, lease agreement, and tax returns. An interview usually is required as well. If approved for food stamps, you can receive your benefits within a week of submitting your application if yours is an emergency need. Otherwise, it typically takes up to 30 days.