The majority of families and individuals who fall under the program’s income restrictions are qualified for assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food StampProgram). The amount of a family’s Food Stamps (SNAP) benefit depends on their income and specific costs. This paper gives an overview of the Food Stamps’ (SNAP) benefit calculation and eligibility regulations that are in force for the federal fiscal year 2022, which started in October 2021.
New Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits and Eligibility Rules
In reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) temporarily changed Food Stamps (SNAP) eligibility and benefits. The following describes the modifications that will still be in force as of October 2021.
Separately, the USDA announced a change to the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) in August 2021 that will increase Food Stamps (SNAP) benefit levels starting in October 2021. (and in future years).
(For more information on how the changes have affected Food Stamps (SNAP) since October, see the box titled “Households Saw Modest Increase in Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in October 2021″).
Deciding Who Is Eligible
Three requirements must be met by a household’s income and assets in order for it to qualify for assistance under federal regulations:
- The household’s gross monthly income or income before any programme deductions are made must typically be at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level. In the federal fiscal year 2022, a family of three will get Food Stamps (SNAP) benefits based on a monthly income of $1,830. This means that $2,379 per month, or nearly $28,550 annually, is the poverty level for a family of three. The poverty rate is higher for larger households and lower for smaller families.
- The household must have a net income that is at or below the poverty line, defined as income before any deductions are made.
- Assets must be below certain limits; for instance, homes without an elderly or disabled member (60 years of age or older) must have assets of $2,500 or less, and those households must have assets worth no more than $3,750.
What is considered income?
Cash income from all sources is taken into account for calculating eligibility for Food Stamps(SNAP), including earned income (before payroll taxes are deducted), and financial aid, Social Security, unemployment benefits, and child support are examples of unearned income.
What is considered an asset?
In general, assets include things like money in bank accounts that might be used to buy food for the household. The household’s home, personal belongings, and retirement funds do not count because they are not readily accessible. The majority of vehicles don’t count. The asset limitations may be loosened by states, and many have already done so.
Who is not eligible?
Some groups of people are not eligible for Food Stamps (SNAP) regardless of their income or possessions, including those who are on strike, everyone without a documented immigration status, some college students who are enrolled more than half-time, and some legal residents of certain countries. In many parts of the US, the amount of Food Stamp (SNAP) benefits available to unemployed people without children who do not have impairments is capped at three months every three years, and states have considerable latitude to impose work requirements on a variety of other Food Stamp (SNAP) households. (Refer to the “The Three-Month Time Limit” box.)
Making Benefit Calculations
Families receiving Food Stamp (SNAP) benefits are expected to spend 30% of their net income on food. The USDA’s TFP is a diet programme designed to provide adequate nutrition in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that low-income households can purchase and prepare, provided they make significant efforts to stretch their food budget. Families with no net income receive the maximum benefit, which is correlated to the cost of the programme. A long-overdue reform to the TFP that increases Food Stamps (SNAP) benefits and makes a balanced, nutritious meal more affordable for millions of families was announced by the USDA in August 2021. Households saw a little increase in Food Stamps (SNAP) benefits in October 2021 (see box).
The monthly Food Stamps (SNAP) benefit for households with net income is equal to the maximum benefit for that household size, less the household’s anticipated payment of 30% of its net income. These benefit calculation criteria were briefly suspended during the pandemic due to emergency allotments (EAs), which increased Food Stamps (SNAP) benefits for the majority of households to at least the maximum level and are still in place in most states.
The maximum Food Stamps (SNAP) benefit levels for households of various sizes in the fiscal year 2022 are shown in Table 1, along with expected average benefits (without the temporary pandemic-related increases, which still are in effect in most states.) As an illustration, consider a family of three. The family would earn the maximum benefit of $658 per month if they had no source of income. However, if the family’s net monthly income was $600, it would only receive $478 instead of the maximum benefit ($658), which is deducted from 30% of its net income (30% of $600 is $180). Prior to the pandemic and the TFP increase, Food Stamp (SNAP) households in fiscal years 2019 and 2020 earned an average of $240 per month. The average Food Stamp (SNAP) monthly benefit per person was about $121, or less than $1.40 per person for each meal.
|Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits by Household Size|
|Household Size||Maximum Monthly Benefit, Fiscal Year 2022||Estimated Average Monthly Benefit, the Fiscal Year 2022*|
|Each additional person||$188|
The most recent data with this information, the Food Stamp (SNAP) Quality Control Household Characteristics data for the fiscal year 2019, is used as the basis for the estimated average benefits, which were then adjusted to take into account the revised maximum benefits for the fiscal year 2022. Most states have given households emergency allotments (EAs), or the maximum benefit appropriate to their household size, during the public health emergency.
As of April 2021, states gave households extra EA benefits in the amount of $95, or the difference between the maximum benefit for the household size and the initial benefit, whichever was greater. Here, the anticipated average benefits do not account for EAs and are based on the standard Food Stamps (SNAP) benefit standards.
In October 2021, Households Had a Little Increase in Food stamps (SNAP) Benefits.
The Food Stamps (SNAP) programme can now give benefits that more precisely represent the cost of a healthy diet according to the USDA’s recent change to the TFP, which is used to determine how much food assistance households need to participate in Food Stamp (SNAP) receive. In the bipartisan 2018 agricultural bill, Congress instructed USDA to carry out this science-driven change to the TFP.
Although Food Stamps (SNAP) households saw a lower immediate increase in their benefits when the change went into effect in October 2021, this long-overdue modification increased maximum Food Stamps (SNAP) payments by a total of 21 percent this year and moving beyond. This is because the American Rescue Plan’s extension of the temporary 15 percent increase in Food Stamp (SNAP) payments established by the December 2020 COVID-19 relief measure expired at the end of September. As a result, most Food Stamp (SNAP) households’ payments slightly increased in October.
A second Food Stamp(SNAP) pandemic relief mechanism, emergency allotments, will expire once the federal public health emergency or specific state emergency designation ends. This is a critical factor for Food Stamps (SNAP) households to take into account. The timing will depend on the course of the public health emergency and state policy actions. Still, households receiving Food Stamps (SNAP) assistance will see a significant reduction in their benefits at that point.
As the temporary 15 percent increase came to an end and the TFP increase went into effect in October 2021, Food Stamp (SNAP) households in the majority of states had a benefit increase in the amount stated in the table below. When emergency allotments end, most Food Stamp (SNAP) households will experience a significant reduction in their Food Stamp (SNAP) benefits. However, Food Stamps (SNAP) benefits will be higher than they would have been without USDA’s TFP update after that drop goes into effect.
|Food Stamp (SNAP) Monthly Benefit Increase for October 2021 for States With Emergency Allotments, by Household Size|
|Household Size||Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefit Increase in October 2021 Compared to September 2021, Per Household||Per-Person Increase|
In calculating Food Stamp (SNAP) payments, deductions are crucial. They illustrate the fact that a household’s income is not entirely available for food purchases; some must be allocated to address other requirements.
The following deductions from a household’s gross monthly income are permitted by the program in calculating available (or net) income:
- standard deduction to cover essential, unavoidable expenses;
- earnings deduction of 20 percent of income (which covers work-related costs and payroll taxes while also serving as a work incentive);
- dependent care deduction for out-of-pocket costs associated with child care or other dependent care needed for a household member to work or participate in education or training;
- child support deduction for any legally required child support that a household member must pay;
- medical expense deduction for an elderly or disabled household member who incurs out-of-pocket medical costs that total more than $35 per month;
- The amount by which a household’s housing costs (including utilities) exceed half of its net income after all other deductions is the amount that qualifies for the excess shelter deduction. In 2022, the excess shelter deduction will be capped at $597, barring households with at least one senior or disabled member.
The standard deduction is available to all Food Stamps (SNAP) households. The shelter deduction is claimed by more than two-thirds (70%) of Food Stamps (SNAP) households, whereas the earnings deduction is used by around 30% of households (and more than 50% of households with children). In contrast, only a small percentage of all Food Stamp (SNAP) households—3%, 2%, and 6%—claim dependent care, child support, and medical expense deductions.
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