What are EBT cash benefits?
EBT stands for “electronic benefits transfer,” and it’s a system through which state welfare organizations can issue benefit payments to a recipient’s payment card. While the system varies from state to state, it is essentially an electronic transfer of welfare benefits to a debit card, offering a convenient option for recipients to use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Cash Assistance payments via the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
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In this article, we’ll discuss what are EBT cash benefits, where you can use them, how to apply for them, what the funds can be used for, and some other relevant information.
What Are EBT Cash Benefits
As we mentioned above, an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is an electronic system that enables a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) participant to pay for food or other items using their benefit funds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Another common program that issues benefit payments via EBT is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF is a federally funded, state-run benefits program that helps families achieve independence after experiencing temporary difficulties. The program, which goes by different names in different states, may help recipients pay for such things as food, housing, home energy, child care, and job training.
An EBT cash benefit is applied directly to a participant’s payment card, which resembles a credit or debit card. Once funds are added to a recipient’s balance, that person can use the card at various approved stores to buy food
When a SNAP participant shops at an authorized retail store, their SNAP EBT account is debited to reimburse the store for the food they purchased.
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SNAP EBT is used in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that EBT has been the sole method of SNAP issuance in all 50 states since 2004.
Where Can I Use EBT Cash Benefits?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture created a SNAP Retailer Locator tool that helps anyone identify what stores in their area accept SNAP EBT funds.
To use the tool, click here, and then input your address or zip code. From there, you can add different filters — such as a retailer’s distance from your home — to help you find a list of options.
You’ll likely find that such retailers as local grocery stores, big-box stores like Walmarts, dollar stores like Dollar Generals, pharmacies like Walgreens, and various convenience stores accept SNAP EBT benefits in your area.
The tool is designed to help SNAP recipients find options where they can use their benefits, however, it’s also helpful for other community organizations, government entities, and charities aiding SNAP recipients.
What Can I Buy with My SNAP EBT Benefits?
If you get food benefits via SNAP, you can buy food products with your EBT card.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approved food items include fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, bread, cereals, snack foods, and non-alcoholic beverages as well as seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat.
Things you cannot buy with EBT benefits include beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, tobacco, vitamins, medicines, supplements, live animals, hot foods, pet food, cleaning supplies, and cosmetics.
What Can I Buy with My TANF EBT Benefits?
If you get benefits via TANF, your EBT card can be used to buy various items or services — however, the program’s rules vary from state to state. Recipients with a TANF EBT card may be able to use the benefit funds may for such things as food, housing costs, home energy, child care, and job training.
Similar to SNAP restrictions, you cannot use your TANF EBT benefits to buy beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, tobacco, vitamins, medicines, supplements, live animals, hot foods, pet food, cleaning supplies, and cosmetics.
To learn more about TANF and its benefits, check out this page from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Pandemic EBT (P-EBT)
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. government created the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes a Pandemic EBT benefit.
The Pandemic EBT provides benefit funds in a similar fashion to SNAP benefits. The program helps children that would have received free or reduced-price school meals had COVID-19 not closed their schools or caused reductions in school hours and attendance.
Households that receive P-EBT can use their benefits at SNAP-authorized retailers, to purchase eligible food items. You can find those SNAP-authorized retailers by clicking on this search tool.
I Lost My EBT Benefits Card
If your EBT benefits card was damaged, lost, or stolen, check out this helpful page from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The page offers a state-by-state list of phone numbers to call and websites to seek out in the event that your card is damaged, lost, or stolen.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was formerly known as the Food Stamp program.
SNAP’s goal is to provide nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of families in need so that they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. The size of a family’s SNAP benefit is based on its income and certain expenses and many vary month to month or year to year.
To be eligible to receive SNAP benefits, you or your family must pass three general criteria tests in gross monthly income, net income, and assets.
Gross monthly income — household income before any of the program’s deductions are applied — generally must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line. Applicants’ net income, or household income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the poverty line. Lastly, an applicant’s assets must fall below certain limits. Households without a member who is elderly or has a disability must have assets of $2,250 or less, and households with such a member must have assets of $3,500 or less.
Visit SNAP’s Application and Local Office Locators page to learn how to apply for benefits in your state. Simply click on the link, and click on your state to apply for benefits or to read more information about SNAP. Each state has its own unique application form.
You can also call the SNAP hotline at 1-800-221-5689 to get more information on your state’s SNAP benefits.
While researching and applying for SNAP and TANF EBT benefits can take some time, they are valuable benefits that can help your family purchase healthy food, find stability, and move towards self-sufficiency.
Remember, there are plenty of people and organizations that are available to help. You can visit SNAP’s Application and Local Office Locators page here to get more information online or you can call the SNAP hotline at 1-800-221-5689.
We hope through this article you learned more about what are EBT cash benefits, how to apply for them, and what the funds can be used for.