Anyone can apply for food stamps, though you may not be the most eligible. Department offices can offer you more resources and help even if you don’t qualify, such as referring you to an organization. Many people who qualify for assistance do not ever apply to receive it, and experts are wondering why. For many, it’s the stigma that holds them back from accepting a “handout,” but with almost 47 million Americans on food stamps in the country, the majority who are unemployed and struggling, the face of food stamps has definitely changed. It’s now imperative that this aid be received by families in order to maintain a healthy diet. So if you do qualify for food stamps, here are some reasons that can change your mind about applying.
If you’re worried about waiting in lines or having to talk face-to-face with someone, there are plenty of ways to file for food stamps in every state. You may not even have to go down to the office. Most food stamp programs allow you to apply online or at the very least, print and fax the form, or mail the form. In every scenario, you do not have to visit any government office. The required interview is the only time that you may even talk to someone, and that will only happen one time after your application has been evaluated.
If you think food stamps are only for families, think again. In most states you can get about $30 a week minimum as an individual, or about $200 a month. However, the amounts do depend on income and expenses. The government expects that you will spend about 30 percent of your household income on food. In some states, the average benefits are about $300 per individual.
When planned out every day, $400 doesn’t seem like it would go very far, but in addition to your income and to allow for certain bills to be paid on time, the added assistance does help families with low incomes. Even if you are a couple, or you live with an elderly or disabled dependent, you can earn even more than the minimum.
There’s a reason why they changed the name of food stamps to SNAP in 2008. There actually aren’t any paper food stamps being used right now. It’s been changed for a long time, and the more common way that benefits are distributed is through an EBT card, which works like a debit card that you can take to any market or grocery store that is a participant in the program. It’s actually quite painless and no one really even looks at the card, since you’re the one sliding it through the reader.
There are some obvious things that food stamps aren’t going to pay for, like pet food, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and dinners at Red Lobster. Although some states have tried to place further restrictions on what you can buy with food stamps, there aren’t any laws that state you can’t buy fruits, vegetables, meats, Little Debbie cakes, Coca-Cola and iced tea with your benefits. You do have to be careful and plan out your meals with food stamps to ensure that you get a well-rounded diet.
Food stamps aren’t just for food that you can buy. You can actually start your own vegetable garden. SNAP includes seeds in the provisions for what you can buy. You can make your own tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, whatever you like with your seeds. This will provide you with plenty of vegetables beyond what you can get at the market with your monthly allowance and allow you to free up some cash for other items at the grocery store.
In some states, like Massachusetts and Florida, you can also be eligible to receive a discount rate on utility and phone bills. SNAP food stamp households are automatically enrolled in utility discount rate programs. You should be able to check your utility bill after being accepted into the food stamp program to see the new rate. You can also register to vote through most applications for food stamps.