The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called food assistance in Florida or also known as Food Stamp, provides food benefits, access to a healthy diet, and education on food preparation and nutrition to low-income households. This 2020 Food Stamp Guide For Florida will teach you everything you need to know about the program.
Food stamp eligibility is complicated, and the rules change often. This article is a good starting point, but the best way to find out if you’re eligible for food stamps is to apply for them.
SNAP is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state agencies, nutrition educators, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the program and can access benefits. SNAP is the federal name for the program. State programs may have different names.
SNAP offers nutrition assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families. Assistance is provided on an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card which works much like a debit card.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that 17.3 million households (about 34.2 million people) use the SNAP program. Of that total, 68% of the SNAP recipients have families with children, 30% have families with elderly or disabled family members and 44% are from working families.
SNAP recipients are disproportionately located in Southern states with Louisiana (20%); Florida (17%); Georgia (17%); South Carolina (16%); Tennessee (16%); Mississippi (15%) and North Carolina (15%) each surpassing the national average for SNAP participation.
More than 1.47 million households in Floirda received SNAP benefits, according to data from the state. That includes nearly 106,000 in Hillsborough County, more than 58,000 in Pinellas County, 34,000 in Pasco County and 14,000 in Hernando County.
- For a family of four, the maximum monthly benefit is $646.
Do I qualify for food stamps?
To figure out if you qualify for food stamps, Florida needs to know your:
- Household size: How many people you live and buy/make food with.
- Income: How much money your household makes. This includes both earned income (the money you make from jobs) and unearned income (cash assistance, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and child support, etc.).
Who counts as a member of my household?
Anyone you live and buy/make food with counts a member of your household.
You may live with people who don’t count as household members, like tenants who are renting a room, or adult children (22+) who buy/make their own food.
Children (under 22) always count as household members, even if they buy/make their own food.
Elderly (60+) and disabled people count as household members if you buy/make food for them, or you buy/make food together. If they live with you but buy/make food separately, they do not count as household members.
income limit for food stamps?
Use the chart below to find out whether your household makes less than the gross monthly income limit.
Net income factors in deductions and taxes, which is a complicated process. So, if your household income is under the gross limit, you should apply to figure out whether it’s within the net limit.
Effective from October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020.
* If your household includes an elderly (60+) or disabled person, a higher gross income might still qualify.
Other Florida Specific Eligibility Rules
Individuals must pass all eligibility rules to get food assistance benefits. Some of the eligibility rules are:
- Identity – Individuals must show proof they are the person they claim to be. Applicants must provide proof of their identity.
- Work Rules – Healthy adults, 18 to 50 years of age, who do not have dependent children or are not pregnant, can only get food assistance benefits for 3 months in a 3-year period if they are not working or participating in a work or workfare program.
- Income and Deductions – Most households must pass a gross income limit less than or equal to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Households with a member disqualified for breaking Food Assistance Program rules, felony drug trafficking, running away from a felony warrant, or not participating in a work program must have gross income less than or equal to 130% of the FPL. Households with a disqualified member must have net income less than 100% of the FPL. Households with people who are age 60 or older, or disabled, must only meet the net monthly income limit. Some household expenses may be subtracted from the total monthly income in the food assistance budget. The budget may subtract for shelter expenses, dependent care, medical expenses, child support paid, utility deductions, and earned income deduction.
- Residency – Individuals must live in the state of Florida.
- Citizenship – Individuals must be a U.S. citizen or have a qualified noncitizen status.
- SSN – Individuals must provide a Social Security Number or proof they have applied for one.
- Child Support Cooperation – Certain individuals must cooperate with the state’s child support enforcement agency to prove a child’s legal relationship to their parent and to get the court to order child support payments.
- Assets – Most food assistance households may have assets such as vehicles, bank accounts, or property and still get help. Households with a disqualified member must meet an asset limit.
- Change Reporting – Households must report when the total monthly gross income exceeds 130% of the Federal Poverty Level for the household size and when work hours of able bodied adults fall below 20 hours per week when averaged monthly. The household must report these changes within 10 days after the end of the month of the change.
People who are convicted of drug trafficking, who are running away from a felony warrant, who break Food Assistance Program rules on purpose, who are noncitizens without a qualified status, and some students in colleges or universities are not eligible for food assistance benefits.
SUNCAP for SSI
The SUNCAP Program is a special Food Assistance Program for individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You may be eligible to receive food assistance benefits through the SUNCAP Program without any additional application, paperwork, or interviews. If you already receive food assistance benefits in the regular Food Assistance Program, you may be automatically put in the SUNCAP Program when you become SSI eligible. If your food assistance benefits will go down because of SUNCAP, you may choose to continue receiving your food assistance benefits under the regular Food Assistance Program.
Most students, ages 18 through 49 enrolled in college or other institutions of higher education at least half time, are not eligible for food assistance benefits.
Students may be able to get food assistance benefits if
• Physically or mentally unfit;
• Receiving Temporary Cash Assistance benefits;
• Participating in a state or federally financed work study program;
• Enrolled in college as a result of participation in a Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program
under Title IV of the Social Security Act;
• Working a minimum of 80 hours per month;
• Participating in an on-the-job training program;
• Taking care of a dependent household member under the age of six;
• Taking care of a dependent household member over the age of five but under 12 and do not have
adequate child care to enable them to attend school or work a minimum of 80 hours per month, or
to take part in a state or federally financed work study program;
• Single parent enrolled full time in college and taking care of a dependent household member
under the age of 12; or
• Participating or enrolled in specific programs that will assist in obtaining the skills needed for the
current job market
What Can You Buy With SNAP?
Households can use food assistance benefits to buy:
• Breads and cereals;
• Fruits and vegetables;
• Meats, fish, and poultry;
• Dairy products; and
• Seeds and plants to grow and produce food
Households cannot use food assistance benefits to buy:
• Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco;
• Pet food, soaps, paper products, or household supplies;
• Vitamins and other medicines;
• Food that will be eaten in the store; and
• Hot foods
Stores are not allowed to give cash to individuals who receive food assistance benefits or for the return of empty bottles and cans that contained food purchased with food assistance benefits
Can I get food stamps if I’m unemployed?
Yes, as long as you aren’t leaving a job or reducing your hours specifically so that you’ll qualify.
You may be required to participate in an employment and training program if you aren’t working or work fewer than 30 hours a week. Some exceptions apply.
Can I get food stamps if I’m homeless?
Yes. You do not need a mailing address or housing to apply for food stamps. If you’re currently living in a shelter that gives you free meals, you can still apply for food stamps.
Can I get more food stamps if I’m pregnant or a new parent?
nce your child is born, your household size will increase. More household members = more benefits.
WIC provides food and resources for pregnant women, new parents, and children up to 5 years old.
While you are pregnant, you can’t get more food stamps, but you can apply for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits.
To apply for WIC, contact a local WIC office. Find the local phone number in the list or call 1-800-342-3556 and ask for the phone number of your local WIC office.
The local WIC office will give you an appointment to see if you are eligible for WIC. At this visit, your household income and the medical/nutrition status of each applicant will be reviewed.
According to the 2002 Farm Bill, SNAP will be granted to most legal immigrants that have lived in the country for five years, are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits or are children under 18.
Certain non-citizens, such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons or those admitted for permanent resident, may be eligible. Non-citizens who are in the U.S. temporarily, such as students, are not eligible.