The U.S. Department of Agriculture, or the USDA, has determined that 30 percent of each household's monthly income is spent on food. Families whose incomes are so low that there isn't 30 percent left over after bills for food can qualify for food stamps. To see if a family qualifies, the Tennessee Department of Human Services calculates assets, gross and net income amounts.
One person can make $1,174 a month in total income to qualify for food stamps, while a family of eight can make $4,010, according to the USDA. The limits put in place reflect how many people need to be provided for within the household. The people in a home, sometimes called the "food stamp group", don't have to be related or in a relationship to qualify as a family. As long as they live and prepare food together, they are a unit, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
Calculating Gross Income
Your caseworker, or the person assigned to decide eligibility, calculates your gross income based on household size, according to the USDA. She'll plug in the number of people in your home -- five people in this instance -- and check the gross income limit for that household size. Five people can have a gross income of $2,794 a month. She'll add up all your sources of income and compare it to the limit. If your income is under the guidelines, she'll move on to net income limits.
Calculating Net Income
The caseworker will subtract all allowable deductions from your gross income to see if your net income also fits the guidelines, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services. She'll plug in your gross earnings, then subtract 20 percent, which is an earned income deduction. Then she'll subtract your other deductions, like child care, utility expenses, shelter costs and medical expenses for anyone over 60 or who is handicapped. Child support payments also count if they are legally binding. After subtracting all of this, she'll compare your resulting income with the allowed net income for your family size. For a family of five it's $2,150.
Calculating Allotment Amount
To determine the monthly benefit amount, which is the amount of money you're awarded every month to use for food, the caseworker multiplies your net income by 30 percent, according to the USDA. For instance, if your net income for a family of five is $1,200 ($1,200 x .30 = $360). She'll take the result and subtract it from the maximum benefit allotment for a family of five, which is $793 ($793 - $360 = $433). The result is your benefit allotment amount.