The Food and Nutrition Service within the United States Department of Agriculture administers the food assistance program. Eligible applicants can apply for temporary food assistance through a local Social Security Administration office or through a local food stamp office. A food stamp award letter can refer to the official eligibility determination notice the Food and Nutrition Service sends applicants, or it may refer to the proof of eligibility letter a Social Security income recipient must produce.
Formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income elderly, disabled, unemployed or homeless individuals afford basic food supplies. Eligible individuals receive an award letter from the Social Security Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture after they submit their initial applications.
Since applicants who receive federal Social Security assistance through the Supplemental Security Income program are eligible for expedited consideration, they may have to provide proof of their Supplemental Security Income eligibility. Applicants who apply for food assistance through local food stamp offices must supply proof of their Social Security disability income by providing their award letters from the Social Security Administration.
Food Stamp Rules
To apply for temporary federal food assistance, applicants must meet the federal poverty guidelines, must provide proof of financial eligibility and may have to register for work -- if they are able-bodied and between 16 and 60 years old. In addition to registering for work, applicants must accept suitable work and participate in work training programs. Under the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules, applicants generally receive food assistance for three months every three years with limited exceptions. Applicants who are unable to work due to a permanent disability, pregnant women and women with children can receive benefits for more than three months within a three-year period.
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Financial Eligibility Requirements
Applicants are required to provide proof of their limited incomes, including a list of household members, proof of disability or age, and proof of identification. Each member of an applicant's household must also supply income information.
The USDA limits eligibility to applicants with $2,000 or less in resources. Countable resources include bank accounts, non-business-use vehicles, personal residences, investment accounts and personal property. Individuals who are 60 or older or disabled applicants can have up to $3,000 in resources. The USDA does not count Supplemental Security Income, welfare benefits and other types of government assistance income.
Food Stamps Application Process
Once an applicant submits a SNAP application, the local SNAP office sets up a face-to-face interview and substantiates the applicant's financial information and resources. After the in-person interview, the SNAP office sends each applicant an official eligibility notice. Applicants who qualify for SNAP benefits receive an award letter with an explanation of their benefit awards, including how long they are eligible to receive benefits and the reapplication process for further benefits after they exhaust their original benefits. The office also sends applicants an official denial letter if it decides to deny benefits. The denial notice will explain why an applicant was denied benefits.