Food : Food Stamps

Can I get food stamps?

Food stamps are available for families and individuals who need help meeting their monthly food expenses.

Food Stamps are delivered on an electronic benefit card that looks like a credit or a debit card. Low income families can use this card to supplement their spending on food.

The families can use the card in authorized stores to buy food.

The most common questions on this topic are:

  • how do I apply for food stamps,
  • what happens if I am denied food stamps and
  • if I am already getting food stamps, what happens if I they lower my food stamp amount and I don’t agree.

How do I apply for food stamps?

Applications for Food Stamps can be done online anytime or can be done at the County Department of Job and Family Services. Find your local office.

You are eligible for Food Stamps if you are low income (as defined by the government). Income amounts change frequently.  A family of four can have a take home income of $1,667 a month and still qualify for food stamps. The maximum monthly amount for a family of four is $518.

If you think you might qualify, you may want to check on a benefit’s screener to see how much you may be entitled to.

A quick check can be done at

Working people, seniors, and disabled individuals are all eligible for food stamps.

What if I have been denied food stamps?

If you believe you are eligible for Food Stamps but you are denied, you have several options to resolve the problem.

  • Ask for a county conference, which is an informal meeting with your caseworker, their supervisor and you. You can bring someone along with you to help explain your case or even just for moral support. At the county conference, you get to say why you think the action your caseworker took was wrong. The caseworker explains why they took that action. You try and work out a fair agreement.
  • A second option is to ask for a state hearing, which is a more formal process. The caseworker and their supervisor will be there and you can still bring someone to help you, but this time there will also be a hearing officer. The hearing officer will ask questions of everyone there. You can bring a witness to this hearing if you think it is important for your case. After the hearing, the hearing officer will mail a decision.

Often times it is best to ask for both a state hearing and a county conference. The county conference will happen before the hearing. If you are able to come up with an agreement at the county conference, you can cancel the state hearing.

If you can’t resolve it at the county conference, you can go forward with the state hearing (you haven’t given up any rights).

Whichever option you choose, be prepared to tell your side of the story and why you think their decision was wrong.

Can my food stamp allotment be lowered?

Because your food stamps are based on your income, the amount can fluctuate.

Sometimes the county will lower your amount (or say you were overpaid) and you will not agree with their decision. If this happens to you, you can use a procedure to fight their decision. You can use the same procedure as what is explained above in the denial section.

I work, can I still get food stamps?

Yes! Many people work and get food stamps.

To qualify for food stamps, your income must be below the Federal Poverty Guideline. For a family of three, that means you can make $1300 a month and still be eligible for about $190 in food stamps. To see if you may be eligible, go to and do a "quick check".

I’m homeless and don’t have a permanent address, what do I need to prove my residence in order to get food stamps?

Homeless households are not required to verify where they live.

If you are living in a shelter, however, it may be helpful to bring a letter to the food stamp office which is written by a shelter employee that says you are living in the shelter.

You should also look to the homelessness page on this website for more specific information that may help in your situation.

I am in need of emergency food assistance, what can I do?

Households that have no income and under $100 in resources are entitled to food stamps within 24 hours of applying.

Households that have under $150 in income and low resources are entitled to food stamps within 7 days.

If you are facing these circumstances, please apply for food stamps right away.

Also look to the non-legal resources page to see if other options for emergency food exist in your area.

I am getting an inheritance, what should I do to keep getting my benefits?

If you are receiving public benefits, you can only keep a certain amount of money in your bank account and still get benefits.

The amount of money is called a "resource".

Different programs have different amounts of resources that a client can have and continue getting benefits. The resource limit for Food Stamps is $2,000. If you will be getting more money that the resource limit allows, you should consult with an attorney.

If you are on any other public benefit’s programs (SSI, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Cash Assistance, etc), you should make sure you comply with that program’s resource limits as well.

What counts as the application date for food stamps?

This is an important question because the date of application starts the clock ticking on how quickly the agency needs to act on the application for benefits.

Remember that the County Department of Job and Family Services must act very quickly on some applications, especially food stamps (some very low income clients are entitled to get their stamps within 24 hours under the expedited food stamp provisions).

The date of application is when the application is signed, dated, and turned in to the agency. It doesn’t need to be completely filled out, just signed and dated. This means that if you don’t have all of their information, you should still turn in the incomplete application to get your benefits in the shortest amount of time possible.

How are the number of hours determined I must work in order to receive food stamps?

Under the Food Stamp Employment and Training program, the county takes the amount of food stamps you are getting and then they divide it by the federal minimum wage to get the number of hours you are required to work a month.

So, if you are getting $206 a month in food stamps, the CDJFS would take 206 and divide it by 5.15, which would equal 40 hours of work for that month.

There are several exemptions to the work requirements.

For example, if you are under 16 or over age 60, you are exempt. If you are a parent is needed to care for a child under 6, you are exempt. If you are receiving food stamps and also receiving unemployment compensation, you are also exempt. Many full time students are excluded as are people who have a disability (either a temporary or a permanent disability).

How does the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act impact my food stamps?

If you are an individual seeking benefits for you or your family, please see the Recovery website.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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