Sometimes going through the food stamp application process turns into a long waiting game. The United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service specifically outlines how long an application should take to be reviewed but, unfortunately, it isn't always so simple. Your case can remain "pending," or undecided, for much longer than it should. Stay in touch with your caseworker if you feel your application is taking too long or you aren't getting communication from him or her.
Your case should be decided within 30 days of applying. In addition to this, every application is supposed to be screened immediately to see whether or not the applicant is eligible for "expedited" services, or emergency help. If the applicant is eligible, the case must be approved within seven days and benefits disbursed in the same time frame.
Why Is it Still Pending?
If the decision on your food stamp application is still pending and it's been longer than 30 days since you applied, someone is at fault. Are you sure you completed the application? Did you turn in all necessary paperwork? A lack of complete information could be a reason for the delay. However, if you weren't alerted by your caseworker that you needed to turn in further verification of your circumstances, the fault lies with him or her.
If your application is complete and you've submitted all proof required, your caseworker must determine your eligibility within the 30-day period. If he or she doesn't, the food stamp office is required to review your case and, if approved, give you benefits from the date you applied, not the date it was approved. Therefore, if your case was pending for 60 days before it was finally approved, you'll receive 60 days' worth of benefits in your first deposit.
Call Your Caseworker
Always stay in touch with your caseworker to make sure he or she has all the information needed and to find out why your case is being delayed. This isn't easy, as caseworkers may not return phone calls. If this happens, contact your caseworker's supervisor, and if that doesn't work, contact the supervisor's supervisor. If no one is contacting you, go to the office and request a hearing, either by filling out hearing paperwork or just by writing "I request a hearing" and your signature on a piece of paper and turning it in to the office. A hearing officer who has nothing to do with your case will listen to both sides and make a fair decision.
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service: Timelines in the SNAP Application Process
- West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources: Food Stamp Application Process
- South Carolina Department of Social Services: Frequently Asked Questions
- Tennessee Department of Human Services: SNAP/Food Stamp Application
- Mass Legal Services: SNAP Part IV -- Getting and Using SNAP Benefits
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services: The Application and Application Rights
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services: What Happens When You Apply for Assistance
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services: Verification
- LSNC CalFresh Guide: Failure of the CalFresh Program to Act on an Application Within 30 Days