Saturday, January 22, 2011

How Do I Get Food Stamps?

Everyone needs a helping hand now and then, and with the recession, there are more and more families and individuals signing up for food assistance.  Just from January to December 2010 food stamp recipients went up by 12.6% in Texas and 15.6% in Bexar County. 

Foods Stamps, now known as the SNAP program have benefit programs that last anywhere from one month to three years, but usually last about 6 months.  Just before the expiration of benefits recipients can reapply for assistance.  Families, the disabled, pregnant women and the elderly, generally get longer benefits than individual adults (between 18 and 50).  Individual adults are usually limited to 3 months of benefits within a 3 year period, unless they work at least 20 hours a week or are in a job training program.

To qualify for Texas Food Stamps, you must:
  1. Be a resident of the State of Texas
  2. Fall into one of two groups:
    • Those with a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $2,001
    • Those with a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $3,001 who share their household with a person or persons aged 60 years and over, or with a person with a disability (a child, your spouse, a parent, or yourself)
  3. Have an annual household income of less than:
    • $16,848, if one person lives in the household
    • $22,596, if two people live in the household
    • $28,332, if three people live in the household
    • $34,080, if four people live in the household
    • $39,816, if five people live in the household
    • $45,564, if six people live in the household
    • $51,300, if seven people live in the household

The first step to receiving food stamps is to get qualified by using the SNAP benefits calculator.  The calculator uses information such as weekly income, education assistance (student loans, financial aid, scholarships, grants), workers compensation, TANF benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Retirement Survivors and Disability Insurance, Veterans benefits, supplemental Social Security Income, and other income you may have earned on your own (all considered income--money that you have to spend.)  You will also need to provide information on how much money you have in the bank, checking and savings, and if you have any stocks or bonds.  It also asks about any vehicles you might own, their approximate value, how much you owe to pay off the car, and how you use the vehicle.  Then the calculator asks for your monthly expenses such as child support payments, childcare expenses, medical expenses(for the disabled and elderly) and housing and utility costs.  By subtracting your expenses from your income the calculator will tell you what programs you are eligible for.

Once you have figured out that you are eligible you need to fill out a formal application (English or Spanish).
There are also certain documents you will need to show proof of your eligibility: 
  • an ID card or a Texas drivers license 
  • Social Security card 
  • a qualified alien card if you are not a US citizen 
  • any type of legal documents that relate to your status, such as court orders or guardianship papers 
  • pay stubs and a statement from your employer or proof of self-employment 
  • pay stubs or award letters from any type of supplemental income (Social Security, Worker's comp, Veteran's benefits, etc)  
  • proof of child support payments
  • Loan agreements, or statements from persons who have given you gifts of money
  • Bank Statements
  • Stock certificates, annuity contracts, trust agreements
  • Current tax statements
  • Medical bills
  • Copies of check stubs for rent or mortgage payments
  • Utility bills
  • Check stubs for dependent care services
  • Medical records confirming pregnancy
  (If you don't have a bank account or stocks, that's okay, they just want to see these things if you have them.) 

After you have filled out the application you can mail or fax it to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, or you can call 211 to apply over the phone.  You can also apply online at  At some point you will probably have to go to Texas Health and Human Services to receive your benefits.  Click here for directions to the local office.

However, they can talk with you over the phone or can come to your home if:
  • You live more than 30 miles away from the closest HHSC benefits office.
  • You can’t come to the HHSC benefits office because of bad weather.
  • You are sick.
  • You can’t get a ride to the HHSC benefits office.
  • Your work or training hours do not allow you to come to the HHSC benefits office.
  • You can’t travel because you are 60 years old or older, or you have a disability.
  • You are a victim of family violence.
  • You are taking care of someone who lives in your home.
The HHSC also offers an interpreter service.

There are also online resources to help you with your application such as the Food Stamps Network,
and 211 Texas.

Applying for food stamps takes time and perseverance, so don't give up and ask for help when you need it.


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