State and federal governments offer various programs to help families and individuals struggling with unemployment, low income and other welfare needs. But some of these programs can cannibalize each other, such as when Social Security income is reportable on your tax forms. This can negate the impact of the program. However, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, helps low-income families purchase food, freeing up Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to pay for other necessities.
SNAP served around 31 million people a month in 2009, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The program provides electronic cash benefits to low-income families that can only be used to purchase food. Ineligible food items are automatically excluded from reimbursement when the purchases are totaled at the cash register. The USDA administers the federal program along with state governments that manage state food stamp programs.
SSI benefits are also for low-income families, and also seniors and the blind and disabled. These monthly benefits are not limited to food. They can be spent on whatever the person needs. Receiving SSI benefits does not exclude you from also receiving SNAP benefits. In fact, SSI applicants can apply for SNAP benefits at the same time in all states except California. You may also qualify for Medicaid coverage, as well.
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If you are already receiving food stamps when you apply for SSI, the value of your monthly food stamp benefit will not be included as countable income for SSI calculations. However, when SSI benefits are calculated, it is also considered whether the person receiving the benefits is paying his fair share. Since the SNAP benefits aren't included, this can make the person's share of household expenses look lower than it is, and this could affect the amount of SSI benefits the person receives. If the person applying for SSI is the only wage earner in the house, then there is no conflict.
California is an exception to the rule because SSI recipients receive additional SSI benefits instead of SNAP benefits. So you would not be eligible for SNAP benefits in the state if you are receiving SSI monthly payments. This is the only state where this happens.