According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 10.2% of American households experienced food insecurity in 2021. Tens of millions of families across the U.S. struggle to afford the cost of groceries each year. If you’re one of them, you may feel like there is no way out. Fortunately, there are a number of nutritional assistance programs offered by the government that can help families just like yours. One of these programs in particular is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program uses Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in order to distribute the benefits that its recipients need! However, in order to benefit from this opportunity you need to know how EBT cards work and what kind of help SNAP can provide!
What are Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) Cards and What are they Used for?
EBT cards became the universal way for all SNAP recipients to purchase groceries at qualifying stores, in 2004! EBT isn’t only utilized by recipients of this one government program, however. Recently, another way EBT cards have been used is for temporary assistance programs. One example includes Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT), which was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020. However, not every school is still running this program today. Only some schools are operating this program during the 2022-23 school year.
In summary, EBT cards are part of the electronic system that allows recipients of nutritional assistance programs to spend their benefits. When referring specifically to recipients of SNAP, EBT cards are used at authorized retailers to purchase food items. It’s important to know that not every store accepts EBT as a form of payment. However, many stores do advertise that they accept this type of payment by posting a sign in their store window or even posting it to their website, if they have one. This way SNAP recipients can easily know where they can shop.
Understanding More About the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
We mentioned SNAP quite a few times while explaining what EBT cards are and how they are utilized. Now let’s get to what SNAP is and how this nutrition assistance program can help you and your family. First, in order to benefit from this program, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements, including income level and more. Second, this program is made possible through the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the USDA. Overall, SNAP helps low-income families and individuals afford the cost of groceries by distributing monthly benefits to its recipients.
How Much Monthly Assistance is Possible for SNAP Recipients?
Every month, SNAP passes out each recipient’s assistance by uploading it directly to their EBT card. This allows recipients to quickly and easily access their benefits! In order to show you how much is possible, the USDA provides a list of the maximum benefits a certain household size can qualify for, applicable from October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023. However, keep in mind that these numbers are subject to change each year! Lastly, when it comes to how much you may qualify for, a few factors about your personal situation are considered.
Grocery Items that Can and Cannot be Purchased with SNAP Benefits
Now that you understand how much help SNAP can provide, you need to know what types of items you are able to purchase with these benefits. Unfortunately, not all food or other common grocery store items qualify to be purchased using EBT. The program determines what recipients can and cannot purchase using the monthly allotment of assistance.
Applying for SNAP
You might be wondering whether or not you could qualify for SNAP assistance. The only way to know for sure is to submit an application for benefits. Typically, after submitting an application with SNAP, there is a 30 day waiting period. During this 30 day timeframe, you need to gather and submit documents that support the information you gave on your application. Additionally, the SNAP office will want to interview you before making a decision. Once your application is completely processed, you receive notice of whether you are accepted into the program or not.
States are responsible for handling all applicants and recipients. This means that your state agency handles the process of reviewing your application. Therefore, the exact application process doesn’t look the same in every state. However, the process detailed above can set some general expectations for you. Lastly, in order to get started with the application, you need to reach out to your state’s SNAP agency.
How Long Do Benefits Last?
Once approved, the exact timeframe for how long you will receive benefits varies. Recipients that want to continue receiving benefits from SNAP have to periodically recertify. This is a very important step because recipients that don’t complete the recertification process eventually stop getting assistance. This is because all recipients of SNAP are given a certification period upon receiving notice that they are accepted into the program. This timeframe determines how long you receive assistance for before needing to recertify!
Wrapping It Up
Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards make it easy for recipients of nutrition assistance programs to access and spend their benefits! Programs like SNAP and P-EBT are just two examples of government programs that utilize the electronic system that allows these cards to work. Specifically recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) use their EBT cards to shop for groceries at certain retailers.
The purpose of SNAP is to help low-income households manage the cost of food by offering its recipients with monthly benefits based on the size of their household. Other factors also influence the amount each household can qualify for with SNAP. Additionally, in order to become a recipient of this program, certain criteria needs to be met. Once accepted into the program, each recipient is sent an EBT card that they can start using to purchase certain food items. The only true way to know if you can benefit from this federal program is by applying. However, the federal government doesn’t handle the application process. States are responsible for operating and administering this program. Therefore, if you would like to begin the application process, the first step you can take is to reach out to your state agency by phone, in-person, or online!