Need more food stamps money than you’re currently receiving? If you’ve ever tried to live on food stamps alone, then you know that the monthly amount just isn’t enough to actually buy groceries for an entire month. However, you may not know that there are several ways to get more food stamps funds each month!
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Of course, we would never recommend that you do anything illegal or unethical. The tips we’re recommending here are all very legal. In fact, they’re part of the food stamps regulations!
When it comes to food stamps, you need to know about this.
Before we get into the details of how to maximize your food stamps budget, let’s revisit some basics about this program. If you haven’t applied yet, you can sign up for food stamps here!
Food stamps is also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Since the funds are deposited on a special debit card known as an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, the program is also known as EBT. Some states create even more names for food stamps (such as CalFresh in California).
You can use these funds to buy groceries, seeds, produce-bearing plants, fresh produce, and even certain gift baskets! You can see a full list of items you can buy with food stamps here.
We’ve even found ways that you can get discounted museum and zoo admission with your EBT card! You can get discounted Amazon Prime, too. Of course, you don’t pay for these things with your EBT card. Instead, you just show that you actually have the card to prove that you meet the income requirements of the program. For a full list of 300+ things you can get discounted or free with your EBT card, visit this link.
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This is how they decide how much you’ll get in food stamps.
Not everyone who receives food stamps will receive the same amount. The awards are determined based on household size, income and expenses. A complicated algorithm is used to determine exactly how much you will receive each month.
The law establishes a maximum food stamps allotment.
However, you’ll never receive more than the legal maximum allotment for food stamps. This amount is determined by law but varies by year.
This is the maximum monthly benefit table for 2018 for the contiguous 48 states. There are different income limits for people who live in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Virgin Islands.
|Household Size||Maximum Monthly Benefit||Estimated Average Monthly Benefit|
|Each Additional Person||$144|
As you can see, the estimated average monthly benefit is usually much smaller than the maximum monthly benefit. As the household size increases, the gap between the average and maximum only gets bigger!
Of course, this is largely because of income. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) expects families to contribute 30% of their net income on food. Only families with no income whatsoever will receive the maximum monthly benefit.
This is the mathematical equation they use to determine your food stamps award.
The food stamps office uses a mathematical equation to determine exactly how much money you will receive in food stamps. The first step to getting more food stamps is learning how this math works!
Step One: Find your gross income.
The first step is to identify your gross income. Gross income is what you earn before any deductions or taxes are taken out.
Step Two: Calculate your net income
Your net income is what remains after expenses and deductions. In order to calculate your net income, the food stamps office will subtract your eligible expenses and any deductions that you claim. We’ll talk more about deductions in just a bit.
Step Three: Identify the family’s expected contribution.
Since SNAP rules expect families to contribute 30% of their remaining net income toward food expenses, the agency will calculate 30% of the final income determined in Step Four. If you have no remaining net income, your contribution will be $0.
Step Four: Determine the monthly food stamps amount.
In order to determine how much money you’ll receive in food stamps, take the maximum allotment for your family size and deduct your family’s expected contribution. If it’s $0, then you’ll receive the maximum allotment.
There are three things you can do right now to get more food stamps.
There are several basic mistakes that people make when they apply for food stamps. Some people include extra people in their household and get penalized for reporting their roommate’s rent. Others fail to report income changes. Far and away, though, the most common mistake is not taking advantage of the deductions that are available to you.
Over 95% of people don’t claim these deductions!
Deductions play a critical role in determining how much you’ll receive in your monthly food stamps allotment. The algorithm relies on your net income, which means what is left over after your expenses. Failing to list expenses and deductions is the #1 reason why people don’t get more food stamps funds!
Although you should never make false statements to the food stamps office, there are many expenses and deductions that people simply don’t claim. When I was receiving food stamps, I always skimmed over this section. It’s easy to do but it can really cost you!
This deduction exists because we all have certain unavoidable expenses, like toilet paper. Rather than itemizing all of these little expenses, the government has determined it’s easier to just issue everyone a standard deduction amount.
The amount of the standard deduction is a fixed amount based on your household size. In 2018, the standard deduction is calculated as follows:
|Household Size||Standard Deduction Amount|
You don’t have to do anything to claim this one because it’s automatically given to everyone.
If you are earning money from a job, then you will automatically receive the earnings deduction. This amount is equal to 20% of your earnings.
This deduction is designed to compensate for work-related expenses, payroll taxes and other associated costs. It’s also a work incentive because it favors people who are currently working.
Statistically, more than half of the food stamps households with children receive this deduction. Overall, this deduction is used by 32% of food stamps households.
Child Support Deduction (only 2% use this!)
If any member of your household is legally obligated to pay child support, then you can receive a deduction for the full child support amount. Only 2% of all food stamps households claim this credit! If you’re paying for child support but you didn’t notify the food stamps office, then you may be eligible for more food stamps funds each month!
Medical Expense Deduction (only 5% use this!)
If you have a disabled person or a senior in your household, then you can deduct that person’s out-of-pocket medical expenses! Shockingly, only 5% of households claim this credit.
Anyone who is at least 60 years can use this deduction. It is also available to disabled persons of any age, as long as that person meets the USDA definition of disabled.
That means that if you are not at least 60 years old, you must meet at least ONE of the following criteria:
- You must receive Federal Social Security disability or blindness payments, such as Social Security disability/blindness or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- You must receive disability or blindness payments from the State. These payments must be based on SSI rules.
- You must receive an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act AND be eligible for Medicare.
- You must be a veteran who receives EITHER a total and permanent disability award, aid and attendance payments or is permanently homebound.
- You must be the surviving spouse or child of a permanently disabled veteran who received VA benefits.
With this rule, you can deduct any out-of-pocket medical expenses that exceed $35 per month. The eligible expenses must belong to the disabled or senior member of your household and be directly related to that person’s disability or age.
Eligible expenses could include:
- Medical and dental expenses (including doctor’s bills, hospital expenses and dentures)
- Medications (prescription and over-the-counter medications)
- Nursing care
- In-home health attendant care
- Health insurance premiums
- Transportation costs (related to medical or dental, such as appointments or picking up prescriptions)
That’s what’s listed on the official USDA website. However, several legal help agencies have written about this issue and uncovered other eligible expenses. Although this varies by state, you may also be able to deduct these expenses:
- Pet food and veterinary care for a trained service animal
- Services provided by a relative caregiver (including housekeeping or heavy chore services)
- Child care expenses (if due to age or illness)
- Specialty care (including chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy, etc)
- Eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Hearing aids and batteries
- Communication equipment
- Incontinence supplies
- Walkers and durable medical equipment
- Sensory supplies
- Disability modifications to your home
- Gym memberships
- Transportation at the current federal mileage rate (which is 54.5 cents per mile as of January 2018)
You may need to supply evidence of these expenses, so keep your receipts! If you keep good documentation and turn it in, then you could receive significantly more food stamps!
Excess Shelter Cost Deduction (only 68% use this!)
When I was receiving food stamps, I never bothered to fill in the cost of my telephone service, garbage service, and other expenses. It seemed like a needless headache in the paperwork. It turns out, I could’ve received a lot more food stamps if I’d done it properly!
I’m not the only one who makes that mistake, either. Despite high housing costs, only about 68% of all food stamps households claim this deduction.
The following expenses count toward the shelter deduction:
- Rent / Mortgage Payments
- Property Taxes
- Home Repair (not reimbursed by insurance)
- Heating & Cooling Fuel
- Garbage Collection
- Phone service (basic fee for one phone)
In order to simplify the application process, many states use a Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) in lieu of actual utility costs. This allowance may be larger or smaller than your actual utilities. In states with optional SUAs, you may be able to provide your actual utility bills and increase the deduction so you can get more food stamps!
If your total housing expenses are more than half of your net income, you could be eligible for a deduction of up to $535 (in 2018). If you have an elderly or disabled household member, there is no cap on this deduction. You could get more food stamps, equal to 30% of your additional expenses!
I can’t say this enough: You could get significantly more food stamps if you accurately report all of your housing expenses!
Homeless Shelter Deduction
If you want to get more food stamps funds, proving that you have housing costs can help. This is especially challenging for those who are homeless. If you can prove expenses, such as those for temporary lodging, hotel or payments made to friends for housing, you can get more food stamps.
In some states, you can also get more food stamps if you claim a homeless shelter deduction. This fixed amount of $143 is subtracted from your net income. According to this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this deduction is available in Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Virgin Islands, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Report reductions in income right away!
I personally know a family who had their income reduced by more than half and yet refused to inform the food stamps office. This family suffered for months until their re-certification, when they were awarded significantly more food stamps.
Don’t make that mistake! When you experience an income change, be sure to report it right away.
Don’t include other people’s income if you don’t have to.
Sometimes, clarifying your household can make a huge impact. You could get significantly more food stamps just by making sure the office understands your living situation.
For SNAP purposes, a household is a group of individuals who live together, purchase food together and prepare food together. Your household may include your spouse, children, or anyone else that you both live with and share food with.
That part is critical. In order to be a household, you must live together and share food. If you don’t do both, you’re not a household and you don’t have to include their income.
If you store and prepare food separately, then you don’t have to include their income and information on your application. This is especially important for people who live with roommates or who have live-in caregivers. You can contact the food stamps office to clarify this today!
If you are disabled and unable to shop for your own groceries, then you can appoint someone to shop for you. That person does not have to be included in your household as long as you make it clear to the agency that you do not share food with this person.
If you have dietary restrictions and always prepare your food separately, this is also something that should be made clear to your caseworker.
Here’s what to do if you think you’re eligible for more food stamps.
You need to contact your caseworker immediately! Start by calling or visiting your local government agency that administers food stamps. You can ask to have your food stamps amount recalculated at any time, so you could start getting more food stamps right away!