When you apply for food stamps in Tennessee, the person assigned to your case -- called a caseworker -- applies federal guidelines to your circumstances to see if you qualify for help. Your gross income, net income and resources are all counted, then measured against how many people are living in your home. If your financial circumstances fall within the guidelines, you'll probably receive benefits. Your case usually takes 30 days to be determined; however, everyone's application is screened to see if an emergency status exists. In that case, your case will be approved within seven days, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
The first thing your caseworker will look at when reviewing your eligibility for food stamps is your gross income, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). "Gross" means your whole income before deductions. The USDA sets the guidelines for gross income limits in Tennessee. They begin at $1,174 for a single-person household and increase from there as more people are added to the house. For example, the limit rises to $1,579 for a family of two, $1,984 for a family of three, $2,389 for a family of four and so forth.
Next, you caseworker will test your net income. "Net" refers to the money you take home after deductions and withholdings. If you're elderly or disabled, or if an elderly or disabled person lives with you in your home, you only have to submit to this income test and your gross income won't apply, according to the USDA. After standard deductions and others such as adult day care, elderly or disabled medical expenses, excessive housing costs and child support payments are deducted, the maximum net income allowed for a family of one is $903. Once again this rises with the size of the family ($1,215 for two, $1,526 for three and so forth).
A "liquid resource" is something you own that can immediately be converted into cash. Tennessee counts such things as cash, money in checking or savings accounts, certificates of deposit, property you own that isn't up for sale and investments as liquid resources, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services. The home you live in and the lot it's on don't count, nor does any vehicle you have that produces income, takes you to and from work or is used for shelter. Any other vehicle above $1,500 in worth is counted as a liquid resource. You're allowed up to $2,000 in liquid resources, or up to $3,000 if someone who is disabled or 60 years old or older lives in your home.
Other Eligibility Factors
According to the Tennessee Department of Human Services, you must be a resident of Tennessee to apply for food stamps. You must also either be a citizen of the United States or a qualifying immigrant. Not all immigrants qualify, though their dependents usually do. Check with a caseworker to determine your eligibility. You must have a Social Security number for yourself and all for whom you're applying -- or at least proof that you've applied for Social Security numbers -- and if you're able-bodied and between 16 and 59 you must register for work. People with a criminal drug history may be ineligible, and those who have committed fraud must wait a year after their first offense, two years after a second and are completely disqualified after a third.