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Coronavirus: How to apply for food stamps

Woman wearing protective face mask and gloves to prevent viruses paying with pay pass credit card on card reader at the cash register and looking at female sales clerk
Woman wearing protective face mask and gloves to prevent viruses paying with pay pass credit card on card reader at the cash register and looking at female sales clerk

Americans are filing for unemployment insurance benefits at a record-breaking pace. But unemployment isn’t the only way to find relief during times of financial instability.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship and food insecurity in the wake of coronavirus, or COVID-19, you may qualify for government food assistance. Depending on your income and what state you live in, you might be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as SNAP.

Previously known as “food stamps,” SNAP benefits depend on the size of your household, income, expenses, and resources, and entitles recipients to money to buy nutritious food at authorized and participating markets, farmers’ markets, and grocery stores.

Every SNAP recipient is issued an Electronic Benefit Transfer card, or EBT. Each month, a set amount of funds is loaded onto the EBT card. The card functions like a debit card, and the shopper can use it for qualifying purchases. The funds can’t be used to purchase alcohol or tobacco products, pet food, cleaning supplies, hygiene items or cosmetics, vitamins or supplements, or prepared foods.

A woman leaves the Local Market Foods store after shopping for groceries in Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 2020. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman leaves the Local Market Foods store after shopping for groceries in Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 2020. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Each state operates with its own set of eligibility guidelines, and applications can be filed online or by mail. Most states try to approve or deny applicants within 30 days of the application submission date. If your finances are in dire shape, some states offer expedited benefits that can provide assistance within seven calendar days.

Before you apply, gather your financials and personal information for those in your household that you’re seeking benefits for. Be prepared to provide the following:

  • Social Security numbers

  • Proof of identity

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration information

  • Proof of income

  • Proof of expenses

Intentionally providing false information will result in disqualification that ranges from one year to permanent as well as prosecution in court. Given the personal and sensitive nature of the required information, only apply through a .gov URL.

A customer pays for his groceries after shopping at the Local Market Foods store in Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 2020. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
A customer pays for his groceries after shopping at the Local Market Foods store in Chicago, Illinois, on April 8, 2020. (Photo by KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The benefit is open-ended, but all recipients are required by law to report any changes in income.

Below is the income eligibility limits and monthly allotments for single taxpayers and families of four. There are other income eligibility limits and monthly allotments for married couples and families with fewer or more children.

If your state’s threshold and allowances is not included, please visit your state’s website, which is linked below, and call the number provided for more information.

  • Alabama

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Alaska

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,690 (gross), $1,300 (net)

    Family of four: $3,488 (gross), $2,683 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $238 (urban), $304 (rural I), $370 (rural II)

    Family of four: $796 (urban), $1,015 (rural I), $1,235 (rural II)

Previously known as “food stamps,” SNAP benefits are determined by household income and size, and allow recipients to purchase nutritious food. (Photo Getty)
Previously known as “food stamps,” SNAP benefits are determined by household income and size, and allow recipients to purchase nutritious food. (Photo Getty)
  • Arizona

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Arkansas

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,316 (gross), $1,012 (net)

    Family of four: $2,720 (gross), $2,092 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $192

    Family of four: $642

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354

    Family of four: $2,790

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $192

    Family of four: $642

Instacart shopper Loralyn Geggatt finishes shopping at Shaws for a customer during the COVID-19 pandemic in Falmouth, MA on April 7, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Instacart shopper Loralyn Geggatt finishes shopping at Shaws for a customer during the COVID-19 pandemic in Falmouth, MA on April 7, 2020. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
  • Delaware

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Florida

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $2,328

    Family of four: $4,812

  • Idaho

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354

    Family of four: $2,790

  • Illinois

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,718 (gross)

    Family of four: $3,541 (gross)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Indiana

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Iowa

Customers wear face protection in a supermarket in Vienna on April 6, 2020. (Photo by ROLAND SCHLAGER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
Customers wear face protection in a supermarket in Vienna on April 6, 2020. (Photo by ROLAND SCHLAGER/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
  • Kansas

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $642

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $642

  • Maine

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Maryland

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Massachusetts

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $ $1,718 (gross)

    Family of four: $3,541 (gross)

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

A man and a woman wear a mouthguard when shopping in a supermarket. (Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A man and a woman wear a mouthguard when shopping in a supermarket. (Photo by Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)
  • Montana

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $192

    Family of four: $642

  • Nebraska

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,926 (gross)

    Family of four: $3,970 (gross)

  • New Mexico

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • New York

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,562 (gross), $18,744 (annual)

    Family of four: $3,219 (gross), $38,628 (annual)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • North Carolina

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • North Dakota

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Rhode Island

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,146 (net)

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,316 (gross), $1,012 (net)

    Family of four: $2,720 (gross), $2,092 (net)

  • Tennessee

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,316 (gross), $1,012 (net)

    Family of four: $2,720 (gross), $2,092 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $192

    Family of four: $642

SNAP recipients are given EBT cards that can be used like debit cards to purchase at authorized markets. (Photo Getty)
SNAP recipients are given EBT cards that can be used like debit cards to purchase at authorized markets. (Photo Getty)
  • Texas

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,718

    Family of four: $2,933

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Utah

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Vermont

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,146 (net)

  • Virginia

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

  • Washington

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,354 (gross), $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,790 (gross), $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • West Virginia

  • Wisconsin

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

  • Wyoming

    Monthly income eligibility limits

    Single: $1,041 (net)

    Family of four: $2,146 (net)

    Maximum monthly allotments

    Single: $194

    Family of four: $646

Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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