The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamps program, is about to undergo a review with new requirements that will take effect from September 1, 2023, in order for the program to comply to the Fiscal Responsibility Act, signed by President Joe Biden in June.
One of the changes has to do with the eligibility age. Previously, individuals aged between 18 and 49 could qualify for SNAP benefits, even if they were unemployed, for a duration of three months within a three-year span. However, under the new regulations, this age threshold will undergo a gradual expansion. Starting from September 1, 2023, the age requirement for ABAWD (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents) status will be raised to 50 years. By October 1, 2023, the threshold will further increase to 52 years. Finally, commencing October 1, 2024, individuals must be at least 54 years old to be considered ABAWD.
Qualifying for SNAP: Who are Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs)
The category Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) refer to a specific category of individuals within the context of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. SNAP is a federal assistance program in the United States that provides eligible low-income individuals and families with funds to purchase food items. However, there are certain work requirements and time limits associated with SNAP benefits, and ABAWDs are subject to these particular rules.
ABAWDs are individuals who:
- Are between the ages of 18 and 49.
- Are not living with children or other dependents.
- Are considered able-bodied, which means they are physically and mentally capable of work.
- Are not pregnant.
For this specific group of beneficiaries, SNAP payments are limited to a maximum of three months within a 36-month period unless they meet certain work requirements. The three-month limit refers to a period of time in which ABAWDs can receive SNAP benefits without meeting additional criteria.
After this initial three-month period, ABAWDs have work requirements
ABAWDs must work at least 80 hours per month in a qualifying job or participate in a qualifying work program. This can include paid employment, job training, or workfare. If employment opportunities are limited, ABAWDs can also meet the requirement by participating in education or training programs approved by the state’s SNAP agency.
Even though, ABAWDs may be exempt from these work requirements based on factors such as a disability, pregnancy, or participation in certain other government assistance programs.
If you fail to comply to these requirements, you might lose your SNAP assistance after the initial three-month period has expired. Therefore, ABAWDs are encouraged to connect with their local SNAP agency to determine their eligibility and to explore options for meeting these requirements beyond this point.
Discover if you’ll qualify for SNAP benefits after the upcoming changes
Another of the changes that are on the way for the SNAP benefits program is about the emphasis that will be placed on working hours. People under the age of 50, without children, must prove that they work 80 hours a month or more, that they are enrolled in an educational program or participate in job training. This measure seeks to strengthen the link between eligibility and active participation in the workforce or continuing education.
Of course, there will be some exceptions that also come into play: Homeless people, veterans, and young adults aged 18 to 24 who have passed the age of foster care will be exempt from these strict labor demands. In addition, those individuals who are unable to register due to physical or mental limitations, pregnant people and children under the age of 18 who do not reside in their homes, will also qualify for the exceptions.
What food items can be purchased with SNAP benefits?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families. These benefits can be used to purchase a variety of food items, but there are some restrictions to keep in mind. The benefits are typically delivered via an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card and can be used at participating stores and online retailers.
Eligible food items include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meats, fish, and poultry
- Dairy products
- Breads and cereals
- Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
- Seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat
What if I don’t meet the new food stamp requirements since September 2023?
From the aforementioned month, if you do not meet the new requirements, SNAP financial assistance will be limited to a maximum period of 3 months every 3 years. This could lead to financial difficulties in those households that rely on food stamps to complete their budgets.
For now, the way SNAP benefits are paid doesn’t have to change. It will continue to be deposited in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) every month, following the schedule established by the USDA. With these resources, you can purchase a variety of essential food items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, grains, and even seeds and plants for growing food at home. Take to note that SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy non-food items like pet food, alcohol, or tobacco.
Reasons why someone may be ineligible for SNAP benefits
Insufficient Income: One of the most common reasons for being denied food stamps is having insufficient income. The federal government has established income limits that households must meet in order to qualify for food stamps. If your income is above the limit set by your state, you will be ineligible for food stamps.
Not meeting citizenship or residency requirements: To be eligible for SNAP benefits, one must be a citizen or legal permanent resident residing in the United States. Undocumented individuals or those living in the country temporarily are not eligible for SNAP assistance. Additionally, individuals who have been living in the United States for less than five years primarily on a temporary visa status are also not eligible for food stamps.
Receiving benefits from another source: If an individual is already receiving benefits from programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), they may be denied food stamps. Each state has its own guidelines and requirements for eligibility, so it’s important to check with the local Department of Social Services to see if one is still eligible.
Failure to comply with program requirements: Failure to comply with program requirements is another common reason for being denied food stamps. This can include not providing accurate and complete information on the application, failure to participate in required interviews or meetings with a caseworker, or not submitting requested documents or verification of income and expenses.
Unfulfilled Work Requirements: The SNAP program has work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). ABAWDs are required to work at least 20 hours per week or participate in a work program to receive benefits. Failure to meet these requirements can result in being denied benefits or having them reduced after a certain period of time.
Specific Exemptions: Certain individuals may be exempt from the work requirements, such as those who are pregnant, medically unable to work, or caring for a disabled household member. The SNAP office can provide more information on exemptions and requirements.
The SNAP benefits will increase due to the cost-of-living adjustments
In the coming year, there will be some notable changes in the maximum allotments and benefit calculations for various regions in the United States. For instance, families of four living in the 48 states and Washington, D.C. will see their maximum allotment increase to $973, while those in Alaska will experience a range from $1,248 to $1,937.
Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands will have maximum allotments of $1,434 and $1,251, respectively. However, Hawaii will witness a slight decrease, with a maximum allotment of $1,759. The minimum benefit in the 48 states and D.C. will remain unchanged at $23.
Additionally, the shelter cap value is on the rise, reaching $672 in the 48 states and D.C. Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands will also benefit from increased shelter cap values. The maximum homeless shelter deduction will now stand at $179.66 across these regions.
Furthermore, the minimum standard deduction for households of sizes 1 through 3 has increased to $198 per month. The resource limits for households, whether they include a member aged 60 or older or a disabled individual, remain steady at $2,750 and $4,250, respectively. For any questions or clarification regarding these adjustments, state agencies are encouraged to reach out to their regional office representatives. These changes aim to better support families and individuals in need across different parts of the country.