The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or "SNAP," is the food stamps program available in the U.S. Individual states set their own SNAP requirements, but they're largely similar. In most cases, the terms of your eligibility under your state's laws will determine when and how you must report changes to the program and the kind of changes that are reportable.
Changes That You Must Report
Virtually all states require that you report a change of income for food stamps because your benefits rely heavily on this information. These changes are reportable in New York City if your income decreases or increases by as little as $100 a month.
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California and Oregon require that you report any changes in the number of people who make up your household, as well as details regarding any property or assets any of them might have bought or sold. And Oregon also wants to know if you've won $3,500 or more playing the lottery or gambling in any other way.
Other common reportable information includes:
- Financial assistance from other sources
- Changes in work hours
- Changes in court-ordered child support obligations, Social Security benefits or unemployment benefits
- Losing or acquiring a job
- A family member reaching 60 years of age
- Changes in shelter or housing costs
How to Report Changes
All these changes will almost certainly affect the amount of your benefits, either increasing or decreasing them, so states don't want any roadblocks when it comes to receiving this information. This doesn't necessarily mean that the reporting process is painless, however.
Illinois and Massachusetts will take your changes online at the states' websites, but you can also mail or fax your report to your local assistance office in Illinois. Some states, like California and Oregon, require that you call or visit your local office. You can also mail in a paper report using a form dedicated to reporting changes if you live in either of these states.
Your safest bet is to check your state's website or contact your local office or caseworker to determine the requirements for your state, but you're almost always safe going directly to your assistance office and asking for guidance.
When to Report Change of Income for Food Stamps
You should touch base with your local food stamp office as soon as possible when changes occur, and some states even set deadlines. Households have 10 days to report most changes in New York City and Oregon, but some minor changes can wait and simply be reported at the time you recertify, which is usually annually.
Some states require that you report on a regular basis even if you don't experience any changes. You're simply updating your case file on these occasions, or confirming that nothing has changed. The deadline is typically every three months in California. Massachusetts will send you a heads-up by mailing you a form on which you can detail any changes. Most households must submit this type of "interim report" every six months.
If You Fail to Report
So what happens if you miss a deadline or just don't think a change is important enough to report when, in fact, it is? You'll most likely have to repay any excess benefits you received if those unreported changes would have resulted in your benefits decreasing. This is the case in California. And you'll lose your household's benefits entirely if you fail to turn in a required quarterly report in this state.
New York City will also require repayment of your benefits, but generally only if your household income tops 130 percent of the poverty level in any given month.
You don't want to risk either possibility, so it's important to reach out to your caseworker immediately about any changes you might experience.
- State of California Health and Human Services Agency: Food Stamp Benefits How to Report Household Changes
- Illinois Department of Human Services: Change of Address, Income or Assets
- NYC Human Resources Administration: SNAP FAQ
- Mass.gov: Overview of SNAP Reporting Requirements
- Oregon Department of Human Services: Change Report
- USDA: Applying for Food and Nutrition Services