Food stamp programs are monitored by state and local agencies. These agencies ensure compliance with program regulations by issuing food stamps in short time frames. Within this time period, your food stamps are valid unless you violate the rules of the program. Ensure that you understand the regulations surrounding the food stamp program by reviewing paperwork issued by your case worker.
Once you are approved for food stamps, they are issued for a set time frame. The set time -- or "certification period" -- can last from one to 12 months, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. If you have not re-certified your food stamps in more than 12 months, your food stamps are probably invalid.
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Typically, near the end of your certification period you will receive written notification of your need to re-certify. The agency issuing the food stamps will ask for documentation to verify your need for food stamps. This information is usually mailed to the permanent address listed on your initial food stamp application. If you recently moved, contact the agency to update your mailing address to avoid missing pertinent information.
Food stamps are available through Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, cards. An EBT card works similar to a debit card, but can only be used for food items.. You must use a Personal Identification Number, or PIN, to make purchases with your card. You can manage your EBT card information online or by phone. Use the hotline number on the back of your card to find out whether your account is still active. You can also access your account online using the number on your EBT card. The automated system or online statement will indicate the amount you have in your account. If money is still available, chances are you are still an active participant in the food stamp program.
When you are accepted into the food stamp program, your case worker sends a notice of acceptance into the food stamp program. This notice usually includes specific certification dates. Even if money is available in your food stamp account outside of these dates, avoid using your food stamps. This could be an error in your account and using the funds outside of the certification period could disqualify you from the food stamp program.