Food Stamps Income Limits 2020

Last Updated on 11/17/19

Are you getting ready to apply for food stamps and are wondering what the eligibility criteria are? How much income can you make and still get SNAP?

In this post, we will review the food stamps income limit for 2020 and what you need to know to successfully apply for SNAP benefits.

This post on food stamps income limit will cover:

  • What is SNAP?
  • Who Qualifies for Food Stamps?
  • Food Stamps Eligibility
  • Food Stamps Income Limit – 2020
  • How Much Food Stamps Will I Recieve?
  • Special Rules For Elderly Or Disabled
  • How to Apply for Food Stamps
  • What happens when I apply for SNAP?
  • Emergency Food Stamps

"Food Stamps Income Limits"What is SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is a federal nutrition program that enables low-income families to buy a variety of food that is the basis for better nutrition.

If you are approved for benefits, your monthly allocation will be issued electronically to the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

You can use your EBT card used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores, and some farmers’ markets and co-op food programs.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal agency responsible for overseeing the Food Supplement Program. The program is managed at the state level.

However, to apply for food stamps, contact your state agency responsible for the food stamps program.

Who Qualifies for Food Stamps?

Most families and individuals who meet the SNAP income guidelines are eligible for benefits. See the income limit chart for 2020 below.

How much in food stamps you receive is based on your household income and certain expenses.

All children 21 years of age and younger who live with their parents must apply with their parents.

You must be a U.S. Citizen or an eligible non-citizen to qualify.

Individuals who receive TANF, General Assistance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) do not need to meet an income test in order to receive Food benefits.

Food Stamps Eligibility

Here’s how to determine if you qualify for food stamps:

Follow the steps below to calculate your gross income, net income and see if you meet the asset requirements.

We have also provided an example below for you to follow in calculating how much in food stamps you are likely to receive based on your household income.

To be eligible for food stamps, a household’s income and resources must meet three tests:

Eligibility Test 1 – Gross monthly income

The first test you must meet in order to be eligible for SNAP benefits is the gross income test.

Gross income is a household’s income before any applicable deductions are applied.

Generally, this must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line.

For a family of three, the poverty line used to calculate SNAP benefits in the federal fiscal year 2020 is $1,778 a month.

Therefore, 130 percent of the poverty line for a three-person family is $2,311 a month, or about $27,700 a year.

The poverty level is higher for bigger families and lower for smaller families.

Eligibility Test 2 – Net monthly income

The second test is the net income test.

A household’s Net income, or income after deductions are applied, must be at or below the poverty line (100 percent of the poverty line).

See the food stamps income limit table below for a complete chart on gross and net income requirements based on the number of people in a household.

What is Considered Income for food stamps?

The following counts as income under food stamps:

Cash income from all sources, including earned income (before payroll taxes are deducted) and unearned income, such as cash assistance, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and child support.

Eligibility Test 3 – Assets

The final test you must meet is the Assets test.

Your household assets must fall below certain limits. Households without a member who is elderly or has a disability must have assets of $2,250.

However, households with an elderly or has a disabled person must have assets of $3,500 or less.

What are considered assets for food stamps?

Generally, resources that could be available to the household to purchase food, such as amounts in bank accounts, count as assets.

Items that are not accessible, such as the household’s home, personal property, and retirement savings, do not count. Most automobiles do not count

Note that states have the option to relax the asset limits, and many have done so.

Therefore, check with your state’s food stamps agency for details on what the asset requirements are for your state.

As mentioned, the food stamps income limit is determined as a percentage of the National Poverty Guidelines as issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Below is the most current national poverty guidelines, followed by the complete 2020 Food stamps income limit.

2019 Federal Poverty Guidelines 

Number of People in Household 48 States & DC Alaska Hawaii
One $12,490 $15,600 $14,380
Two $16,910 $21,130 $19,460
Three $21,330 $26,660 $24,540
Four $25,750 $32,190 $29,620
Five $30,170 $37,720 $34,700
Six $34,590 $43,250 $39,780
Seven $39,010 $48,780 $44,860
Eight $43,430 $54,310 $49,940
For nine or more, add this amount for each additional person $4,420 $5,530 $5,080

Based on the National Poverty guidelines above, the following food stamps income limit chart is calculated by the USDA.

Net income means gross income minus allowable deductions.  Gross income means a household’s total, non-excluded income, before any deductions have been made.

Under Federal law, all income is counted to determine eligibility for SNAP unless it is explicitly excluded.

Food Stamps Income Limit – 2020

SNAP Income Eligibility Limits – Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020

Household Size Gross monthly income
(130 percent of poverty)
Net monthly income
(100 percent of poverty)
1 $1,354 $1,041
2 $1,832 $1,410
3 $2,311 $1,778
4 $2,790 $2,146
5 $3,269 $2,515
6 $3,748 $2,883
7 $4,227 $3,251
8 $4,705 $3,620
Each additional member +$479 +$369

* SNAP gross and net income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii.

What deductions are allowed for Net Income?

To calculate your household’s net income, you have to subtract allowable deductions from your household’s gross income.

The following deductions are allowed for SNAP:

  • A 20-percent deduction from earned income.
  • A standard deduction of $167 for household sizes of 1 to 3 people and $178 for a household size of 4 (higher for some larger households and for households in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam).
  • A dependent care deduction for the out-of-pocket childcare or other dependent care expenses that are necessary for a household member to work or participate in education or training;
  • Medical expenses for elderly or disabled members that are more than $35 for the month if they are not paid by insurance or someone else.
  • In some states, a child support deduction for any legally obligated child support that a member of the household pays
  • In some states, a standard shelter deduction for homeless households of $152.06.
  • Excess shelter costs as described below.

Food Stamps Excess Shelter Costs Deduction

The shelter deduction is for shelter costs that are more than half of the household’s income after other deductions.

Allowable shelter costs include:

  • Fuel to heat and cook with.
  • Electricity.
  • Water.
  • The basic fee for one telephone.
  • Rent or mortgage payments and interest.
  • Taxes on the home.

Some States allow a set amount for utility costs instead of actual costs.

The amount of the shelter deduction is capped at (or limited to) $569 unless one person in the household is elderly or disabled.

The limit is higher in Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.

For a household with an elderly or disabled member, all shelter costs over half of the household’s income may be deducted.

How Much Food Stamps Will I Recieve?

The total amount of food stamps benefits your household gets each month is based on your income and number of people in your household.

The federal government expects SNAP households to spend about 30 percent of their own resources on food.

Therefore to determine how much in food stamps you will receive if you apply, you have to multiply your household’s net monthly income by 0.3.

After that, subtract the result from the maximum monthly allotment for your household size using the table below

Note: The total amount of SNAP benefits your household gets each month is called an allotment.

Food Stamps Maximum Monthly Allotment Based on Household Size

People in Household Maximum Monthly Allotment
1 $194
2 $355
3 $509
4 $646
5 $768
6 $921
7 $1,018
8 $1,164
Each additional person +$146

Note: The allotments described here are for households in the 48 contiguous States and the District of Columbia.

The allotments are different in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Special Rules For Elderly Or Disabled

There are several exceptions and exemptions to the SNAP eligibility requirements if a household member is elderly or disabled.

Who is elderly?

In SNAP, you are elderly if you are 60 years or older.

Who is disabled?

In SNAP, you are disabled if you meet ONE of the following criteria:

  • You receive Federal disability or blindness payments under the Social Security Act, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security disability or blindness payments. OR
  • You receive State disability or blindness payments based on SSI rules. OR
  • You receive a disability retirement benefit from a governmental agency because of a permanent disability. OR
  • You receive an annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act and are eligible for Medicare or are considered disabled under SSI. OR
  • You are a veteran who is totally disabled, permanently homebound, or in need of regular aid and attendance. OR
  • You are the surviving spouse or child of a veteran who is receiving VA benefits and is considered permanently disabled.

There are several exceptions and exemptions to the SNAP procedures if a household member is elderly or disabled.

A person is considered elderly for SNAP purposes if they are 60 years or older.

Immigrant Eligibility

If you are a legal immigrant, you may be eligible for SNAP if:

    • You have lived in the country for five years, or
    • Are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits or,
    • Are under 18 years of age.

In addition, certain non-citizens, such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons may be eligible.

Non-citizens who are in the U.S. temporarily, such as students, are not eligible.

For more details about immigrant eligibility, including how undocumented immigrants can apply for SNAP for their documented children, see our food stamps eligibility post.

Who can apply for food stamps?

  • The head of the household
  • The spouse of the head of household
  • Any other responsible household member
  • A designated authorized representative (can be a friend, relative, neighbor, or anyone else the applicant trusts to go food shopping and use their SNAP benefits)

How to Apply for Food Stamps

Here’s what you will need to apply for food stamps:

Documents You May Need for SNAP Application

The examples provided below are to help you get ready for your SNAP interview with your Caseworker.

Provide copies of the documents needed to complete your application.

If you are having a phone interview, you must send in copies of the required documents to your caseworker BEFORE the scheduled interview date.

For an IN-OFFICE INTERVIEW, bring the required documents with you.

If you need help obtaining or copying any of these documents, please call the caseworker listed on your appointment letter, or visit your local food stamps office.

CHILD SUPPORT PAID

A copy of the court order and proof of the amount paid, such as a canceled check or a written statement.

EARNED INCOME

Provide 4 weeks of pay stubs or a letter from your employer.

IDENTIFICATION

An applicant and/or authorized representative will need at least ONE form of identification such as:

  • Passport or Certificate of Naturalization
  • Driver’s license
  • Birth certificate
  • Voter registration card
  • Military or state ID card
  • Work or school ID card
  • Health benefit or a library card

A Social Security number for all household members applying for benefits is required. (Social Security cards are not required.)

IMMIGRATION STATUS

If a non-citizen, proof of immigration status is required and sponsorship information may be needed.

MEDICAL EXPENSES

Individuals with a disability or age 60 or above: medical costs that are NOT REIMBURSED including doctor co-pays, mileage costs, therapy expenses, prescription costs, Medicare card showing “Part B” and “Part-D” coverage.

RESIDENCY

One document indicating current address (i.e. utility bill, bank statement, etc.)

RESOURCES– This may include verification of liquid resources, bank statements, stock and bond certificates, and proof of property ownership.

Vehicle registration may be required.

STUDENT INCOME

An applicant may be required to provide verification of educational (Loans/Grants/Scholarship) expenses including, but not limited to, tuition and fees.

UNEARNED INCOME

Most recent copy of:

  • Social Security award letter
  • Proof of unemployment
  • Worker’s Compensation
  • Pension
  • Child support
  • Alimony
  • TDI
  • Rental income
  • Dividends or any interest income
  • Adoption subsidy
  • EITC
  • Foster care income
  • Out of state assistance, etc.

Submit Application

Most states offer 4 different ways to apply for food stamps

Option 1 – Apply online

The following 46 states allow you to apply for food stamps online.

AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN (some counties), KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MO, MN, MT, MS, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV, WI

To apply online, click here and locate your state and you will be provided a link to their food stamps application page.

Option 2 – Apply In Person

Visit your state’s food stamps office location near you. To find an office location, click here and locate your state for further information.

Option 3 – Apply By mail or fax

You can also apply for food stamps by downloading an application, and completing it, and returning it to your state’s food stamps agency.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have printable applications. To locate the application form for your state, click here and locate your state for further instructions.

Option 4 – Apply Over the Phone

Call your state’s food stamps hotline to start an application over the phone, or have an application sent to you through the mail.

To locate the phone number for your state’s food stamps hotline, click here and locate your state for further instructions.

What happens when I apply for SNAP?

Generally, your state agency or local SNAP office will process your application and send you a notice telling you whether or not you are eligible for benefits.

You should hear from them within 30 days after you submit your application and all required documents.

What happens next?

Here’s what you should expect after you submit your application.

Step 1 – Interview

You must have an interview either in person or over the phone. You will receive a phone call from a caseworker to conduct your interview.

If you are unable to take that call, you will receive a notice in the mail informing you of the date and time of the interview.

For those who have been scheduled for a telephone interview, your caseworker will call you at the phone number you provided on your application.

If you are required to do an in-person interview, go to the appropriate office at the time of your interview.

If you cannot make the interview (phone or in-office) at the scheduled date and time, call your caseworker immediately to reschedule.

Step 2 – Provide Requested Documents

You will need to gather documents verifying the information you provided on your application. You may provide photocopies.

If you have a telephone interview, you will be given an address and or fax number to mail your documents to.

You may also have the option to upload your documents online.

If you have an in-office interview, bring your documents with you to the office.

If you are asked to provide further documentation, provide them within the timeframe provided. Typically, you will have 10 days to get the documents to your caseworker.

Step 3 – Decision

If you are approved for SNAP, you will be given or mailed an EBT card and asked to select your personal identification number.

If your application is declined, you will be mailed a letter explaining the reasons for the decision.

You have a right to appeal the decision.

Emergency Food Stamps

You may be eligible to receive SNAP benefits within 7 days of your application date if you meet additional requirements. This is called expedited approval.

To qualify, you or your family must:

  • Have no more than $100 in earned/unearned income, cash, or bank account
  • Expect to make less than $150 this month
  • Rent/mortgage and utilities this month are higher than your monthly income

Summary

We hope this post on food stamps income limit was helpful.

If your question was not answered and are still having trouble with eligibility requirements and the income limit, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our other articles on food stamps including food stamps calculator and what you can buy with food stamps