As of March 2011, a single person in the United States can receive up to $200 per month to purchase nutritious groceries if he has financial need. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. Individuals can apply for food stamp benefits with their state health and human services department if they meet certain eligibility guidelines.
In addition to income limits, U.S. citizens and resident aliens must not have excess savings or investments to qualify for the SNAP program. As of March 2011, a single person cannot have more than $2,000 in stocks, bonds, investment property and bank accounts. This limit increases to $3,000 if the applicant has a disability or is age 60 or older. A single residence, cars and personal items do not count toward resource limits.
As of March 2011, a single person in the contiguous 48 states cannot earn more than $1,174 in gross income a month and $903 in net income a month, amounts corresponding to 130 percent and 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) respectively. According to the USDA, individuals in Alaska must not earn more than $1,466 in gross income and $1,128 in net income per month. Residents of Hawaii cannot earn more than $1,350 in gross monthly income and $1,039 in net monthly income as of March 2011. Individual states can offer more liberal food stamp qualifications than federal standards if they choose to fund additional benefits out of their own budget. Food stamp applicants should check with their state department of health and human services to determine their eligibility.
To qualify for food stamps, individuals 60 or older and those with disability must not exceed net monthly income requirements. Disabled persons are defined as individuals who receive Social Security disability payments or private disability retirement benefits; totally disabled veterans; and the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who receives veterans benefits.
To calculate net income eligibility for food stamps, individuals can take a number of deductions from their gross monthly earnings. Per USDA guidelines, these commonly include a 20 percent earned income deduction and a $142 standard deduction. According to Title 7, Section 273.9 of the Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. food stamp applicants can also take a deduction for child support payments, out-of-pocket medical expenses in excess of $35 per month if disabled or elderly and excess shelter costs that consume more than 50 percent of an individual's income. The excess shelter deduction allows an individual to take at most a $458 deduction for rent, electricity, water, property taxes and telephone bills unless the applicant lives in Alaska, Hawaii or Guam or is elderly or disabled.