Families across the country are noticing that the cost of food has skyrocketed recently! But what does that mean for households that were already struggling to afford the cost of food? Fortunately, there are opportunities that may be able to help. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provide monthly food cost assistance to families that need it. You might be wondering how Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards fit into this. Well, EBT cards play a major role in allowing those who can receive SNAP to spend their benefits without unnecessary headaches.
How Do Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards Work?
EBT cards are the final step in the electronic system that SNAP uses to distribute benefits to its recipients. However, SNAP isn’t the only government program that utilizes this system. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government launched a temporary food assistance program known as Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT). This temporary program also made use of EBT cards to distribute aid. With that being said, there are only some states who are operating this program during the 2022 – 2023 school year. Some of these states include:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Prior to EBT cards, recipients of SNAP received their benefits in the form of paper food stamps. In 2004 EBT became the sole way for recipients to spend their assistance. These cards make it easy and efficient to make purchases. However, it’s important to be aware that they can’t be used to purchase everything. Only certain types of food items can be bought. In addition to this, not every store accepts EBT as payment. You may have seen a sign in the window of a store that read “we accept EBT.” Now you know that means that they accept SNAP benefits!
Everything About the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP is a federal government assistance opportunity. This program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Specifically through their Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) office. The goal of SNAP is to “supplement the food budget of needy families” so that they can afford nutritious food. For this reason, there are certain requirements an individual or household must meet to qualify for assistance.
What Food Items Are Approved to Buy with SNAP Benefits?
SNAP won’t cover your entire grocery bill. This is because the program establishes what types of food items can and cannot be purchased with benefits. The following food items are not approved:
- Foods served hot at the point of sale
- Non-food items like hygiene products, pet food, etc.
- Supplements like vitamins
- Alcoholic beverages
- Live animals (there are exceptions)
Fortunately there are plenty of items that are approved to purchase with SNAP. These include:
- Non alcoholic beverages
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Snack foods
- Grain products like bread and cereal
- Produce like vegetables and fruit
- Meat, fish, and poultry
- Plants and seeds that grow food that the household can eat
The Amount of Assistance that SNAP Provides
Now that you know what you can purchase with SNAP, you might be wondering how much help you can get. Fortunately, this may be able to give you an idea of what is possible! The program determines the maximum amount of benefits a household qualifies for! For example, between the dates of October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024, a 5 person household can get up to $1,155 per month in most states. It’s important to know that households are not guaranteed to get the maximum amount of benefits for their family size. Benefits are based on need!
SNAP Application Process
After learning a little more about SNAP, you likely want to know how you go about getting assistance. The only way to know for sure is to submit an application. To do this, you will need to reach out to your state’s SNAP office. There are a few ways to contact them. These include:
- Visiting the office in person
- Going on their website
- Calling your state’s SNAP information hotline
Although SNAP is federally funded, your state agency will handle your application. For this reason, the application process will vary based on the state that you live in. However, you can expect some consistency. There is usually a 30 day waiting period after you submit your application. While you are waiting, you’ll be asked to verify the information on your application with supporting documents. Finally, you’ll do an interview with your SNAP office. Once everything is processed, you’ll be informed of whether you qualify for benefits or not.
What Happens If You Disagree With the Decision Made By SNAP?
There are cases where you go through all of the paperwork and hassle of applying to SNAP and you’re denied. It is understanding how disappointing that could feel to a family who needs the help. However, there is still something that you can do if this happens to you! Within 90 days of receiving notice from SNAP about your application, you can ask that your case get looked over again. Requests for a fair hearing can be submitted to your local SNAP office in various different ways. Once you submit a request, an official is legally obligated to fairly and objectively go over your case again. It is worth a try because you never know if there could be a different outcome!
Wrapping It Up
After this article, you have a better understanding of how EBT cards work and how they can help. EBT simply refers to the electronic system that allows food assistance recipients to spend their benefits. This needed assistance comes from SNAP! They help millions of families every year. This assistance can be life changing for some, especially as the cost of food continues to rise. When considering this program it is important to remember only certain types of food items can be bought using EBT. In addition to that, not every store accepts it as payment! Furthermore, only certain individuals will qualify for SNAP. If you’re interested in this opportunity, you will want to get in contact with your state’s agency. There might be more help than you think!