A large number of people are still unaware of what Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards do and how to get one. However, they’re not meant for everyone, and their main use is to provide financial aid for those struggling to buy groceries. You may be eligible to get one if you meet certain income requirements or are enrolled in certain government assistance programs. If you’re one of those people and you didn’t know about this option, this article may be a turning point for you and your family!
Receiving support through an Electronic Benefits Transfer card
EBT cards are used as means of financial support that the government created in order to simplify the process of using assistance programs. They are used with government programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps people pay for food. However, even if you’re finding out about them just now, the EBT card has been around for 19 years as of 2023! With it, the program’s users can purchase food items at participating stores that accept them as a valid form of payment. At times, the government also distributes these EBT cards as part of temporary assistance opportunities. This includes the Pandemic-EBT program which is supposed to lighten the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is SNAP?
It wouldn’t make sense to talk about EBT cards without first giving a proper explanation of the program that provides them. Ever since 2004, the card has been the only way to receive benefits from SNAP. The Food and Nutrition Service helped create the program to offer aid to qualifying Americans with their monthly grocery purchases. The service falls under the US Department of Agriculture. However, it’s not as simple as sending in your information and receiving a card in the mail, and you’ll have to meet specific criteria to see the rewards of the SNAP program.
How much can you receive?
The maximum amount of funding you can receive from SNAP largely depends on your financial situation. Despite this, certain maximum amounts have been created to help households with multiple members. For example, a single-person home can receive a maximum of $291, whereas a 2 personal household can get up to $535 every month. At 8 members, a household’s maximum amount of support can be $1,751, after which the program awards $219 for every additional member. These numbers aren’t constant between states and you may run into some differences. Additionally, the maximum amount of support can change every year. However, these values are valid for the October 1st, 2023 – September 30th, 2024 period.
What items are available for purchase?
Due to SNAP being a program that offers support specifically for grocery shopping, not every item is eligible. You can find a list of all approved and not approved items right here. It goes without saying that tobacco and liquor are off limits, as are live animals (special rules apply) and nonfood items. However, you’re still able to spend the funds on:
- Dairy and Grain Products
- Snack Foods
- Plants and Seeds
Applying for SNAP
The best way to apply for SNAP is to contact the state agency administering the program. You can do this online, through a free telephone number, or in person at the state agency’s office. Once you’ve obtained all the necessary info, you can fill out your application for the program. However, each state’s SNAP program is different, although you can typically expect the processing to last 30 days. The specific timeline will just be on a case-by-case basis. Once the office completes the evaluation of your case file, they’ll inform you whether you are eligible or not. While you’re waiting for a reply, you will also have to attend an eligibility interview and provide verification for the claims you made on the application.
How long can you receive benefits?
If you do qualify for benefits from the program, the responsible agency will also inform you how long they’re going to last. This is often referred to as the certification period. After this has passed, the office will send out a notification asking you to recertify your case file. If you wish to continue receiving SNAP benefits it’s crucial to do this on time and immediately after your certification period expires. You have to provide verifying information every time you re-apply to the program. The office will then use this info to decide whether you’re still eligible for the program or not. However, a lot of states have a simple recertification process. With this update, households, where all members are above the age of 60, will likely not have to complete a recertification interview.
Can you appeal the SNAP office’s decision?
Unfortunately, the agency administering the program does tend to decline a fair share of applications. If you find that this applies to you, you can still appeal their decision. By doing this, you can request a fair hearing, which is done with an official who will be required to reevaluate your case. However, you can’t sit around and wait if the SNAP office declines your application, as you’ll have to submit the hearing request within 90 days of the decision. Much like the application process, you can do this either online, through the agency’s toll-free hotline, or in person.
From here on out, whenever you see a store claiming they accept EBT cards, you’ll know what they are. This electronic system operates similarly to how debit cards do, except it can only be used for select items designated by the program. Additionally, only certain retailers will actually accept them as a form of payment. Through SNAP, the federal government aims to provide qualifying American households with access to affordable and nutritious food. The program achieves this by depositing funds into a recipient’s EBT card every month. If you believe you’re eligible and could benefit from this program, the next thing you should do is contact your local SNAP office. If this isn’t possible at the time, you may also want to try the state agency managing the program.