Below, you will find information on the SNAP program, general eligibility requirements, immigrant and student eligibility, and how to apply for SNAP.
What is SNAP?
SNAP is one of the first lines of defense against hunger in the United States. Previously known as food stamps, SNAP can help put healthy food on the table by providing monthly assistance to purchase food at authorized groceries, corner stores, and farmers’ markets.
Some helpful terms to know:
SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the new name for the food stamps program. “SNAP benefits” are the same thing as “food stamps”.
In Pennsylvania, benefits are provided monthly through an ACCESS card, similar to a debit or credit card. Card names can vary from state to state.
EBT stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer. It’s the system the government uses to disburse benefits.
What should I know about the SNAP program in Pennsylvania?
- For a single-person household, you can receive anywhere between $15 and $192 every month.
- Receiving SNAP does not take benefits away from anybody else. Anyone who is eligible and applies can participate. Refusing your SNAP benefits does not mean others will get them.
- SNAP benefits can be used for grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, seeds, and most other food items found in grocery stores.
- Farmers’ markets often accept SNAP benefits, so you can purchase fresh, local produce using your benefits. Visit the map to find farmers’ markets that accept SNAP.
- Over 490,000 Philadelphians receive SNAP, but there are estimated 140,000 people who could qualify for benefits but don’t participate in the program.
Am I eligible?
Eligibility is based on household size, income, expenses, assets, and other factors. The guidelines below are subject to change annually in October.
Find your household size. If your monthly income is less than the amount listed, you might be able to get SNAP.
- The SNAP benefit amount also depends on monthly bills, such as rent or mortgage, property taxes, renter's or homeowner's insurance, and utilities.
- You can also report other expenses like child care and child support. If you are 60 or older, or are receiving disability benefits (SSI or SSD), you can report your medical costs, like co-pays and out-of-pocket medicine payments.
Legal immigrants with a green card can receive SNAP benefits if they have lived in the country for 5 years or more.
Documented immigrants under 18 are eligible regardless of how long they have been in the U.S. and regardless of their parents’ immigration status.
Certain non-citizens, such as refugees or asylees from certain countries, may also be eligible to receive benefits.
SNAP does NOT affect immigrant status.
Under federal guidelines, students at institutions of higher learning must meet a work requirement to receive SNAP benefits.
As of March 2018, students who take at least three classes at a community college now automatically meet SNAP’s work requirements rules. Those who are applying will need to have this form completed by a school official.
Other college students enrolled at least half-time at an “institution of higher learning” (based on school’s definition), may be eligible if they meet one or more of these criteria:
- Enrolled in Federal work-study -or-
- Works 20+ hours a week -or-
- Responsible for a dependent under age 13 -or-
- Over age 50 -or-
- Disabled (receiving SSI or SSD) -or-
The rest of an ineligible student’s household may still be eligible for food stamps.
How do I apply for SNAP?
There are many ways to apply for SNAP. Review the options below and decide what works best for you and your schedule:
1. Apply over the phone
Residents of Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester counties can call the Coalition Against Hunger to submit an application over the phone via the SNAP Hotline: 215-430-0556. Hotline counselors will submit a SNAP application for you over the phone and provide assistance throughout the application process.They can also help resolve problems with your application or SNAP case.
To apply for multiple benefits, including SNAP, TANF, LIHEAP, health insurance, and energy assistance, call BenePhilly: 844-848-4376.
2. Apply in person at your local County Assistance Office
If you don't know where your office is, call the SNAP Hotline: 215-430-0556 to find out.
3. Apply online
Use the COMPASS website to apply for benefits online at any time.
What documents will I need to apply?
Although it depends on your case, the County Assistance Office will generally ask for proof of ID, proof of residency, and proof of income (such as pay stubs for the past month).
What happens after I apply for SNAP?
You have 30 days from the day you apply to provide the documents that your County Assistance Office asks for. You can either mail, fax, or physically drop-off copies of the documents to the office. It’s recommended that you drop off or fax documents to the office, instead of sending them by mail, to ensure they arrive. If you drop off documents at the office, be sure to ask for a receipt.
After submitting your application, the County Assistance Office will contact you for a telephone interview. The telephone interview is mandatory and must be completed before your application is approved.
The County Assistance Office has 30 days from the day you apply to approve or deny your application, unless you are eligible for expedited benefits (see below).
Can I receive benefits sooner than 30 days?
If you qualify for “expedited,” or emergency benefits, you will get your benefits within 5 calendar days. You may be eligible for expedited services if you meet ONE of the following criteria below:
- Your monthly gross income is less than $150 and the value of total liquid resources is $100 or less.
- Your monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than your monthly shelter expenses. (Shelter expenses include, rent or mortgage, property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and utilities costs)
- Everyone in your SNAP household are migrant or seasonal farm workers who are destitute and have $100 or less in liquid resources (money in checking and savings account) and nothing else to live on.
How do I check on my application for SNAP?
If you have not heard from your County Assistance Office within three weeks, call the Department of Health and Human Services’ Customer Service Center (also known as the Change Center) at 215-560-7226.
What if I still need help getting SNAP or have additional questions?
Call the Coalition Against Hunger's SNAP Hotline at 215-430-0556, Monday through Thursday from 9am to 5pm, and on Friday from 9am to 4pm. If you don't reach anyone the first time, please leave a message. On average, a hotline counselor will return your call in 1-2 days.