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SNAP: 7 Mistakes People Make When Using Food Stamps


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Formerly known as food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helped nearly 42 million Americans cope with food insecurity in 2021. But millions are still missing out on benefits despite their eligibility, and many others are not making the most of the benefits they enjoy. Here’s a rundown of the most common mistakes that prevent eligible people from collecting benefits and prevent recipients from maximizing their SNAP payments.

Discover: Surprising things you can buy with food stamps
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Thinking you can’t apply to other programs

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 5 million seniors eligible for SNAP are denied benefits. Many of them might not apply because they assume they can’t collect Social Security and food stamps simultaneously — but they can.

Although the USDA considers Social Security payments regular income when determining eligibility, participation in one program does not exclude you from the other. In fact, you can apply for SNAP at your local Social Security office.

You can also receive SNAP while collecting SSI benefits, receiving Medicaid, living in Section 8 housing, or participating in any other assistance program as long as you qualify.

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Not maximizing deductions

The USDA determines SNAP eligibility based on income and the number of people in your household. Many people who might qualify don’t apply because they don’t meet the income threshold. But the USDA allows several deductions that could help you qualify even if you earn more than the income limits allow. Deductions include:

  • A 20% deduction on earned income
  • A standard deduction based on household size
  • Deduction for dependent
  • Unreimbursed medical expenses over $35 per month for elderly or disabled household members
  • Child support (in some states)
  • A housing deduction for homeless households (in some states)

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Not knowing what you can buy

The USDA does not allow SNAP recipients to purchase certain items, including alcoholic beverages, tobacco, vitamins, pet food, hot food, and live animals.

But many recipients mistakenly believe that they can’t use food stamps for junk food like candy and snacks, but the truth is that SNAP can satisfy your sweet tooth. In addition to standard grocery items like produce, meat, dairy, bread, and cereal, the USDA allows the purchase of a wide variety of so-called “incidental foods,” including potato chips. , pretzels, popcorn, candy, ice cream, donuts, brownies, mints, chocolate, soda, no-charge energy drinks and many other non-essential items.

Don’t use coupons and cashback apps

It’s common for SNAP recipients to believe they can’t use coupons, but according to the USDA, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers can use discount coupons issued by a manufacturer or a store”.

They’re also free to use coupon and cashback apps like Ibotta, Rakuten, Coupons.com, and Fetch Rewards.

Cashback apps like Ibotta can be doubly useful, as they return cash that shoppers can then use to buy necessities that SNAP won’t pay for, like diapers and medicine.

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Not shopping by plan

The USDA maintains a list of links and resources that help all shoppers get their money’s worth at the grocery store. Meal planning is at the heart of smart shopping – and SNAP recipients will benefit the most.

By planning your week’s meals in advance, you can go to the grocery store knowing exactly what ingredients you need, saving you time and unnecessary expense.

The USDA list includes several weekly meal planning templates to get you started, and you’ll also find shopping tips, sample menus, and more.

According to ABC Action News, shoppers can save hundreds of dollars on their grocery bills and avoid impulse buying by planning just three to four dinner parties a week.

Skip the Farmers Market

The USDA maintains a list of the hundreds of farmers’ markets across America that accept food stamps — and all SNAP recipients should consider this option. According to CNBC, farmers’ markets have historically been more expensive than supermarkets, but high inflation has driven prices at the grocery store up faster than at the local community market.

There is now significant price parity between the two, and in some cases farmers’ markets are even cheaper. If the prices are close, your EBT money might be better spent at a farmer’s market, as the fruits and vegetables you find there are usually fresher – and therefore more nutritious – than what you’ll find in the produce aisle of the supermarket. .

Missing out on SNAP-focused discounts

Amazon is offering SNAP recipients a half-price Prime membership. Museums For All offers recipients free or discounted entry to more than 900 museums across the country. Many YMCA chapters have also reduced the cost of membership for SNAP recipients.

But this is by no means the whole list.

If you’re eligible for SNAP, you’re likely eligible for the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which supplements household broadband costs, as well as the Lifeline Program, which distributes free tablets. Lime offers discounts for its bike share program, as does Citi Bike – and the list goes on and on. If you receive food stamps, you likely qualify for discounts on all kinds of products, services, and programs from businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies.

Low Income Relief maintains a list of over 300 rebates available to SNAP recipients.

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