Limits on Assets When Applying for Food Stamps

Food stamp programs are administered by individual states.

Food stamps provide access to food for low-income people. Recipients of food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by the federal government), typically need to meet both income and asset guidelines in order to qualify. While federal guidelines state that households receiving food stamps should not have assets of more than $2,000, or $3,000 if at least one household member is elderly or disabled, many states have either eliminated or greatly reduced asset test requirements for most applicants.

Cash Assets

Under federal guidelines, the value of savings, checking, and many investment accounts count towards food stamp asset limits. However, these same guidelines do not count the value of certain types of retirement accounts (such as IRAs and 401Ks) and educational savings accounts (such as 529s) to be included in a calculation of assets.

Car Value

Federal SNAP guidelines include the value of an applicant's vehicle or vehicles over the amount of $4650 toward calculating his total assets. However, a vehicle's value can be exempt from an applicant's total assets depending on its use. For example, the value of a car used directly for income-earning purposes (taxi cab, delivery vehicle), is not an asset for calculating SNAP eligibility. Some states eliminate car value entirely from asset calculation.

Home and Property

The value of a home in which an applicant lives, along with the lot it sits on, does not count toward asset limits. Other land and property can count toward asset limits, but some states, such as Massachusetts, exempt income property from asset totals.

Exempt Categories

If everyone in a household is receiving either Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), the household asset limitation requirement does not apply. If some people in the household are receiving SSI and TANF, but not others, the assets of the TANF and SSI recipients don't count toward SNAP asset limits. In some states, TANF money is used to provide services (such as domestic violence brochures or pregnancy prevention hotlines) to all or most of its residents, which effectively eliminates the need for a SNAP applicant to meet asset limitation requirements.

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