Questions about how the federal government shutdown is affecting your food stamp benefits or application?
The U.S. government’s main food assistance program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or “food stamps.”
This federal program is administered in Pennsylvania by the PA Department of Human Services. SNAP/food stamps is a public benefit that you can use to supplement your food budget to provide yourself and/or your family with nutritious food. Most low-income households are eligible for SNAP benefits, which are automatically placed on their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card each month.
Read on below this form for more information about shopping with, qualifying for, and applying for food stamps.
DO YOU LIVE IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PA?
Just Harvest can help you apply for food stamps on the phone. We can also answer your questions about receiving or using food stamps. Please fill out the form below so we can contact you.
Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Just Harvest cannot help you. Please visit this page for information on applying for SNAP, or visit this page to find info on getting help with SNAP elsewhere in PA or in another state.
Shopping with food stamps
What can I buy with food stamps?
Your EBT/ACCESS card works like a debit card. You can use this card to buy food at most grocery stores. At the checkout counter, you swipe the card and enter a 4-digit PIN number to use your SNAP/food stamps to buy food.
You can buy any food product available at participating grocery stores (with the exception of prepared foods), including seeds and plants used to grow food at home. If you are homeless or unable to cook, you can use SNAP benefits at participating restaurants. Some Meals on Wheels kitchens also accept food stamps.
- You can locate stores that accept SNAP benefits online at: snapretailerlocator.com.
- Learn how you can use your food stamps at participating farmers markets to buy nutritious fresh food through our Fresh Access program.
What can’t I buy with food stamps?
You cannot use food stamps to buy any non-food product, fast food, hot foods, pet food, or alcohol.
How can I qualify for food stamps?
Who is eligible for SNAP/Food Stamps?
You are eligible if:
- You are a resident of the county where you are applying for benefits. (Just Harvest provides application assistance for Allegheny County.)
- You are able to provide verification of identity.
- All household members must have a Social Security Number or apply for one.
- You are a U.S. citizen or a qualified non-citizen meeting the other eligibility rules.
- You meet the work requirements for able-bodied adults. (See the section below)
- You meet the income guidelines. (See the chart below.)
Can I qualify even if…
- I own my own home? YES!
- I own a car? YES!
- I work? YES!
- I have savings? YES! Gov. Wolf has ended the food stamp asset test, which prevented people with more than one car or a certain level of savings from applying for food stamps.
- I am a student? YES! Students can be eligible if they work 20 hours a week, have a disability, or have children.
- I receive unemployment, SSI, Medicaid, or other benefits? YES! You can still receive SNAP benefits even if you receive other benefits.
- I live with others? YES! A household is defined as anyone you buy or share food with. If you live with someone that you do not buy or share food with, they will need to sign a purchase and prepare statement.
- I am not a US citizen? YES! All refugees are eligible for food stamps. Adults who have been permanent residents for 5 years and all children who are permanent residents are eligible. If you are not eligible for yourself, but you have children who are US citizens or permanent residents, you can apply for your children. Everyone you are applying for must have a Social Security Number.
To qualify for SNAP benefits, your income has to meet certain income limits. There are two types of income limits: gross and net income. Households of 3 or more must be below both the gross and net income limit.
Gross Income Limits:
Gross income refers to all of your earned income (like wages and salaries) and all unearned income (like public benefits and social security) before any taxes or deductions are taken out. In order to qualify for food stamps, your gross income needs to be below the amount in the following table.
SNAP/Food Stamp Income Guidelines in Pennsylvania (Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019)
Maximum Gross Monthly Income for household with member age 60+ or disabled
Each additional family member
Net Income Limits:
Net income guidelines apply to households of 3 or more. Net income is calculated by a formula that takes into account certain eligible deductions. Households that include someone 60 or older or someone with a disability will have additional deductions available.
Be sure to ask about all possible deductions.
Deductions can include the following items:
- Shelter Costs: rent, mortgage, property taxes and/or homeowners insurance.
- Utility Allowance: a standard amount that is subtracted based on which utilities you pay.
- Child Support and Child Care
- Out-of-Pocket Medical Expensesfor anyone who is over 59 years old or disabled.
For ABAWDs: Unemployed adults under 50-years-old with no disabilities nor dependent children
Since 1997, federal law has required ABAWDs to work or participate in a job training activity in order to receive food stamps. These rules were suspended in Pennsylvania and other states during the recent Great Recession but were reinstated in 2016. Pennsylvania waives areas where the unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average.
As of January 1, 2019, the work requirement is waived for most of Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County. These waivers are renewed every year, so the areas which are waived may change again in 2020.
Consumers who use SNAP/food stamps but do not receive cash assistance and are in a welfare Employment and Training Program are eligible for the same special allowances that cash assistance consumers use. You can get help to pay for childcare and school expenses such as books and transportation.
How much am I entitled to?
The amount you get in food stamps is based on your income and eligible deductions. The minimum benefit amount for all households is $16 each month. The maximum benefit amounts are provided in the table above.
How do I apply?
- If you need help determining whether you are eligible for food stamps or with applying for benefits, contact one of our food stamp specialists at (412) 431-8960 x602.
- You can also apply online through the COMPASS system or contact the Department of Human Services
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has a SNAP Information Hotline for Pennsylvania: 1-800-692-7462.
PLEASE NOTE: You will need to be recertified for SNAP/Food Stamp benefits every 12 months and be required to report any household changes semi-annually (every six months). The Department of Public Welfare will mail you a Semi-Annual Reporting Form (SAR) and an annual renewal packet.
If you are in an emergency situation, make sure you tell the DHS office. You may qualify for “expedited benefits,” which means that you can receive your SNAP/food stamp benefits within five days. You can qualify if your household:
- has less than $150 in monthly income and less than $100 available in cash, or
- has housing and utility costs for the month that are more than your income, or
- includes only migrant or seasonal farm workers with less than $100 cash.