As the Emergency Allotment program ends in states nationwide, more and more people (especially single seniors) are suddenly receiving only $23 in food stamps each month. Why?
The COLA adjustments in October 2021 established $23 per month as the new minimum amount for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Once you apply for food stamps and you’re approved, the amount of your benefits are based on many different factors including your income and expenses. If your income is too high or your expenses are too low, you may find yourself receiving the minimum amount of benefits.
If this has happened to you, you probably have a lot of questions and that’s completely understandable. You may be wondering why this happened so suddenly and what you’re supposed to do with just $23 per month.
We’ll address those concerns and help you figure out how you can get more benefits in this article.
Why do I only get $23 in food stamps?
The short answer is that $23 is the minimum food stamps allotment in the United States. This is the lowest amount of benefits that a household can receive if they are eligible for assistance.
The current 2023 minimums are:
|Location||Minimum Monthly Allotment|
|48 States & DC||$23|
|Alaska (Rural 1)||$36|
|Alaska (Rural 2)||$44|
This number has steadily increased with each COLA adjustment over the last few years. When I first started reporting on this, the minimum amount was just $15 per month!
Can I get more than $23 per month?
The algorithm used to calculate your benefits is complicated. It’s based on your income, household size and expenses. If any of that information is entered incorrectly, then it can drastically reduce the amount of benefits that you receive.
If you’re stuck with the minimum balance, there are a few things you can do to help increase the amount that you are receiving.
Make sure you’ve calculated your household correctly.
Most people assume that their SNAP household is everyone they live with but that isn’t always true. In order to count as a SNAP household, you have to live together and prepare food together. If you don’t share food with them, they shouldn’t be included in your household.
For example, Gary and Susan are retired, 65-year-old grandparents. They live on a fixed income and need help with grocery expenses due to some medical bills that are piling up. Their 20-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth, moved in with them while she’s going to college. She’s never home and pays them $50 per month to cover their internet service. They never eat together because she spends all of her time at school or work or with friends.
If Gary and Susan included Elizabeth in their food stamps application, they may not get as much as they should. They would have to include her income and that would drastically reduce the amount of money they could be eligible for. However, since Elizabeth does not share food with them or contribute meaningfully to their expenses, she really shouldn’t be included in their household. She is a separate household for SNAP purposes. Gary and Susan would have to count the $50 she pays as income on their application unless Elizabeth paid the internet company directly.
As you can see, the rules about SNAP households can be very complicated. It’s important to make sure that you understand the rules and know what you’re doing so you don’t mess up on your application.
Update your income and expense information.
Has your rent gone up? Has your income gone down? These things can affect how much you receive in SNAP benefits. If you don’t update the office with your latest numbers, you may not be receiving the correct amount.
In addition, seniors and disabled people may be able to count their out-of-pocket medical expenses as deductions on their application. This can also help you receive more in food benefits each month. To understand the medical expense deduction, it’s important to understand how those deductions work.
What can you do with $23 in food stamps?
Don’t think that $23 is worth it? Think again! There are many people who decide not to follow through on their applications when they realize they may not get very much in benefits, but that’s always a mistake. Just having an EBT card can unlock a lot of benefits for you and your household.
Unlock 1,000+ EBT discounts.
There are over 1,000 discounts and deals you can get just by having an EBT card. It doesn’t matter how much you receive every month, just that you have the card in your possession and you’re currently receiving benefits.
Buy seeds and plants to produce your own food.
Sure, $23 may not go very far in the produce section… but that can buy a lot of seeds! If you have space for a few pots, you can grow your own plants that will produce food again and again for your household.
Many people don’t realize that you can buy seeds and produce-bearing plants (including fruit trees) with your SNAP EBT benefits. This is part of the food stamps law, and can be very beneficial for low income families.
Shop salvage stores without sales tax.
When you buy with EBT, you won’t be charged sales tax on food purchases. This can help you stretch those benefits further.
To save even more money, try shopping at a salvage grocer! These stores sell food at a steep discount because they focus on food that is overstocked, misprinted, or otherwise too imperfect for name-brand grocery stores. The produce may be ugly and the boxes may have typos, but the food is still safe to eat and it can save you a lot of money.
Double your benefits at the farmer’s market.
Many farmer’s markets offer double-up programs that can help you get twice as much food as you pay for! This is a great way to stock up on fresh produce and make the most of those EBT benefits.
Of course, many markets only operate seasonally and that can be a challenge… but in those summer months, it’s worth strategizing your shopping!
Buy in bulk or wait for sales.
Your food benefits will roll over to the next month if they aren’t used. You just need to make sure to use them before they expire. Typically, those benefits won’t expire until 9-12 months after they are deposited.
If you are having a hard time feeling like it’s worth it to whip out the card for $23 in benefits, let the benefits stack up for three months or so and then try shopping at a bulk retailer like Costco for staples.
What else do you need to know about food stamps?
It seems like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits should be easy to understand but many government assistance programs are unnecessarily complicated. If you have questions about food stamps, be sure to check out our EBT guide!