Food Stamps

Pennsylvania Food Stamp Program

The Pennsylvania food stamps program is the state’s rendition of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP in PA functions similarly to other programs throughout the country. Available to low-income residents throughout the state, this public benefits program provides qualifying petitioners with funds they may use to purchase groceries for themselves and their families.

In this particular state, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) manages the SNAP food assistance initiative. As a result, the DHS is the body of government that enforces program rules and evaluates claimants’ enrollment petitions. The sections below break down some of the finer points of the SNAP food stamps application process, as well as provide an overview regarding the program’s eligibility requirements.

What is food stamps in Pennsylvania?

Each month, SNAP food benefits in Pennsylvania provide over a million residents with monies they may use to purchase groceries. While anyone who lives in the state may apply for food stamps benefits, only petitioners who fall into a specific financial demographic will be permitted to collect funds. Although the state government is responsible for managing SNAP funds, the program itself is funded on a federal level. Consequently, most SNAP benefits programs across the country are similar regardless of where petitioners apply.  For example, there are national standards relating to the maximum amount of funds enrollees may collect each month. On the other hand, states are responsible for establishing their own SNAP benefits income eligibility requirements.

Pennsylvania Food Stamps Requirements

The Pennsylvania food stamp requirements mostly relate to claimants’ incomes. This is due to the fact that SNAP is exclusively available to petitioners who can demonstrate that they have economic need for support. In particular, the requirements for food stamps necessitate that the DHS examines petitioners’ gross monthly incomes. The food stamps eligibility income limits are proportionate to the number of individuals who make up a household unit. Therefore, the breakdown is as follows:

  • A household with only one person can qualify for SNAP if its gross monthly earnings total $1,608 or less.
  • Family units consisting of two individuals may receive food stamps if their monthly gross incomes are less than $2,166.
  • Petitioning households that have three members may be awarded SNAP funds if their collective gross earnings each month total $2,723 or less.

In order to qualify for food assistance, households with even more members will have progressively higher earnings thresholds they must meet. However, claimants must be aware that if they are part of households that include a disabled or elderly family member, their income limits for food stamps are slightly higher. These maximums are as follows:

  • One-person families must earn a gross monthly income that is $2,010 or less.
  • Two-people family units must receive less than $2,708 in gross income each month.
  • Households where three people live need to make less than $3,404 in gross monthly earnings.

Similar to petitioning households without elderly or disabled family members, these income guidelines for food stamps increase along with family sizes.

How to Apply for Food Stamps in Pennsylvania

Once prospective candidates believe they are eligible for SNAP, they may want to know how to apply for food stamps in Pennsylvania. This process is straightforward, and claimants have various formats they may use to submit their petitions to the DHS, including:

  • Petitioning through an online food stamps application.
  • Filing an application in person at their county assistance locations.
  • Sending printed enrollment forms to the appropriate offices.

Claimants must remember when they apply for food assistance that these petitions are generally used to represent whole household units. Therefore, only heads of the household, their spouses, trustworthy household members or pre-chosen representatives may apply for a particular unit. When submitting their claims, petitioners will need to provide the DHS with information regarding different aspects of their families. These requirements are necessary regardless of whether claimants apply for food stamps online or using a paper application. Specifically, candidates will need to provide specific information relating to:

  • Each member of their household – Petitioners will need to list basic demographic information for every person who lives with them. This includes simple facts such as the individuals’ birthdates, names and marriage statuses. However, it also requires claimants to report more specific information such as these individuals’ driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers. Therefore, applicants should prepare this information ahead of time.
  • Citizenship – All applicants’ household members must provide information pertaining to their immigration and citizenship statuses. This means all individuals must report the identification numbers that correspond to their immigration documents.
  • Collective incomes – Claimants are obligated to disclose their families’ collective incomes. Therefore, applicants must disclose any wages, tips or commission their household members earn. Likewise, candidates need to report if they receive any Social Security or veteran benefits, money from a pension fund or worker’s compensation.
  • Recurring health-related expenses – When filling out the food stamp application form, claimants must report any consistent medical bills they pay. This step is particularly relevant for applicants who have members of their households who are at least 60 years of age or are disabled in some way. Examples of medical bills petitioners may produce include hospital bills, home aide costs, public transportation fees that are associated with traveling to appointments or prescription copays.

Preparing for the Pennsylvania Food Stamps Interview

Once candidates submit their materials to be considered for SNAP benefits, they will be required to take part in a Pennsylvania food stamps interview. DHS representatives conduct these meetings. Furthermore, the information gathered during the conversations is used to help the department gauge whether or not applicants qualify for SNAP. Claimants frequently wonder, “What do you need for the food stamps interview?” In reality, there is no standard process to prepare for these conversations. However, claimants may focus on gathering documents and written evidence that supports what they stated in their applications.

Petitions may also inquire about the questions asked during the food stamps interview. Generally, these questions are tailored to each claimants’ unique circumstances. As a result, no two conversations with the DHS are exactly alike from one candidate to another. Nevertheless, petitioners may prepare for their interviews by gathering and sharing any documentation that supports the factual claims they made throughout their applications. Therefore, claimants asking, “What do you bring to a food stamp interview?” may consider arriving with documents such as:

  • Proofs of identity, like photo identification cards, Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports.
  • Proof of residency, including copies of their leases or home deeds, as well as utility bills or mail sent to their home addresses.
  • Proof of income, which could include pay stubs, tax returns or official contracts that outline expected salaries or hourly wages.

How to Use the Pennsylvania EBT Card

Once petitioners receive their SNAP acceptances, they may inquire, “How long does it take to get a Pennsylvania EBT card?” EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer, and this refers to the mode the DHS uses to distribute SNAP funds to enrollees each month. These stipends are seamlessly transferred onto beneficiaries’ Pennsylvania Access Cards, and enrollees may use these tools as they would any other debit card. The PA EBT card provides enrollees with a safe, reliable way to use their SNAP benefits.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania EBT card gives enrollees more autonomy regarding how they access and utilize their funds. For example, the PA Access Card makes it easier for claimants to check their EBT card balance. In addition to seeing their remaining balances printed on their receipts, enrollees may also check their remaining totals online. This allows beneficiaries to remain in control and aware of how much they are spending each trip to the store.

Once claimants receive their PA Access Cards, they may think, “What can I buy with my EBT card?” In reality, petitioners are able to purchase items from any of the major food groups from stores that accept SNAP. Examples of these include:

  • Grains – Petitioners may use SNAP to buy different types of cereal, breads, rice and pasta.
  • Vegetables – Claimants may buy all kinds of fresh, frozen and canned vegetables.
  • Fruits – Similar to vegetables, enrollees can use food stamps to buy fruit in any edible form.
  • Dairy – Candidates are permitted to use SNAP to purchase milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Meats – From beef to chicken and seafood, beneficiaries can use their EBT cards to buy these foods.

Similarly, claimants may also use their EBT card in PA to purchase junk food and soft drinks. Examples of these items include candy, soda, snacks and chips. However, petitioners must remember that they are prohibited from using their SNAP benefits to buy the following items:

  • Household goods, like napkins, toilet paper and cleaners.
  • Non-edible items, such as pet food and soap.
  • Consumable items that are not considered food, like medicine and vitamins.
  • Premade meals and hot foods that grocery stores prepare onsite.
  • Alcohol products, such as liquor and beer.

How to Appeal a Pennsylvania Food Stamps Denial

When petitioners receive a food stamps denial in Pennsylvania from the DHS, this does not definitively indicate that their claims may not move forward. When applicants have their food stamps application denied, the state presents them with a window of opportunity they may use to appeal these determinations. This time limit is 90 days from when the county assistance office (CAO) mailed their original determinations. The CAO is the local branch of the government that is responsible for making individual SNAP eligibility assessments. In order to begin the food stamps appeal process, petitioners must submit their requests for reconsideration in one of the following ways:

  • Call the CAO on the phone.
  • Mail a Fair Hearing Form to the CAO.
  • Return a Fair Hearing Form in person to the CAO.

Within these request for a SNAP denial case reassessment, petitioners must also indicate how they want their appeals hearings to take place. Candidates have four options. These trials may take in forms such as:

  • Completely over the phone – In these instances, both the CAO and the applicants participate in the hearings remotely. Both parties may participate in the interviews from whichever locations they choose.
  • Over the phone at the CAO – Petitioners have the option of requesting to participate in their SNAP hearing phone interviews at the CAO. In these instances, both the CAO representatives and the petitioners would be in the same location.
  • In-person hearings – Applicants may indicate that they want to have in-person hearings. In these cases, claimants report to specified hearing rooms at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals and make their claims in front of judges. The CAO would report from over the phone.
  • In-person hearings with the CAO representatives present – This scenario is similar to the standard in-person hearing. However, in these instances, the CAO officials also report to the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals to be present for the trials.

After the SNAP application denied hearings conclude, the judges will issue their decisions. Claimants who find these subsequent rulings to be unfavorable may request additional appeals.

How to Renew Your Food Stamps in Pennsylvania

Claimants who would like to continue receiving SNAP will need to complete a food stamps renewal in Pennsylvania. The DHS will alert petitioners when their claims are about to expire. It is imperative that enrollees renew food stamps online or using an alternative method before their expiration dates arrive. Failing to file a food stamps renewal application in time will result in claimants experiencing a lapse in payment. During the reenrollment process, beneficiaries may need to provide documentation relating to their incomes, assets and expenses. This is especially true if enrollees experienced any changes to their financial situations since they filed their last claims.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What income do you need to have in order to be eligible for food stamps in Pennsylvania?

Below are the maximum allowed monthly incomes in order to qualify for food stamp benefits in the State of Pennsylvania. The amount of members in your household directly relates to the maximum allowed incomes. Maximum income levels get higher as the number of household members increases.

1 $1,608

2 $2,166

3 $2,723

4 $3,280

5 $3,838

6 $4,395

7 $4,952

8 $5,510

9 $6,068

10 $6,626

How can I check my EBT card balance in Pennsylvania?

The easiest way to check your card balance is by looking at the receipt every time you purchase food. Your current balance should be reflected on every receipt. Besides checking your receipt, you can also call 1-888-328-7366 24 hours a day.

What is Compass?

Compass is the name of the website used to provide benefits to the residents of Pennsylvania. Through the “COMPASS” website, residents can apply for several health and human service programs, manage benefit information and more. You can visit the Compass website by visiting compass.state.pa.us