Pennsylvania Food Stamps Application Information
How to Apply for Food Stamps
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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was previously called the Food Stamp Program. Since that time, not only name has changed but also some other important aspects like the way benefits are being collected by the enrollees.
In order to become enrolled with food stamps, you first need to check you eligibility status and after that you'll need to apply. Both of these aspects will be explained here. After you've been approved get a food stamp Electronic Benefit Transfer card (EBT card), which could be used just like any other debit card at partnered service providers. These are:
- Retail food outlets
- Home-delivered meal organization
- Communal dining facilities
- Shelters for battered woman and children
- Shelters for the homeless
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers
As you can see, there are several ways to obtain a nutritious meal, regardless of your age and income. You should also know that the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has issued a list of items which are covered by SNAP, and those are:
- Food for human consumption, including soft drinks, candy, ice cream, coffee and spices
- Seeds and plants used to grow food for personal consumption
- Meals which are prepared and served in various organizations like shelters for people in need
- Rehabilitation centers, authorized meal-delivery for elders or disabled individuals
- Authorized restaurants which serve meals to homeless, elderly or disabled
You can't use SNAP Food Stamp benefits to purchase any of the following:
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Pet Food
- Products prepared for immediate consumption
- Nonfood items like paper products, household supplies, medicines or tobacco
Since the only way to use SNAP benefits is by using your own EBT card, all you expenses are going to be reviewed on a monthly basis. This means that you'll have a responsibility to stick to the rules and terms of your enrollment. In case you break these rules you might get disqualified from getting SNAP benefits:
- Up to one year for the first violation
- Up to two years for the second violation
- Permanently for the third violation
Besides using your benefits to purchase non covered items, it's strongly forbidden to trade your benefits or to sell them. In case you or anyone from your household breaks this rule you might get disqualified even after the first violation.
In order to use SNAP benefits you'll need to apply for the EBT card. This was one of the changes once the former Food Stamps Programs was transformed into the up-to date SNAP program. This means that there are no longer authorization-to-participate (ATP) vouchers or food coupons which were issued by the banks and DPW. Now you'll receive a monthly financial help deposited right onto your EBT card, which could be used at any SNAP-partnered store or facility. You'll always need to know your PIN number (Personal Identification Number) which is needed to confirm financial activity each time you make a payment.
In case your EBT card gets stolen, you'll need to notify your county assistance office (CAO) right away. This is the only way to preserve the money you've got on your account, since that card will be automatically frozen. The CAO will replace the card within five calendar days.
Another important responsibility, in order to continuously receive your SNAP benefits, it to timely renew your participation. The county assistance office is responsible for processing renewal applications, which also means that your local assistance office will send you a letter containing notice of expiration. You will receive this notice along with the appropriate application form which you'll need to turn in before the end of your households' certification period (a period for which your household is still eligible to receive benefits).
In order to renew you application you'll need to go through these two steps:
- You'll first need to file a timely renewal form
- Second step is to attend and successfully complete an interview, after which you should receive a definite answer from your local assistance office.
Renewal periods depend on the specific cases, so some households will need to renew their SNAP enrollment semiannually while others will need to do this annually.
In case a household or an individual already struggles to get a meal, they can use expedited service. Expedited service is a method which SNAP application is processed so that candidates can receive a first transaction in a period no later than five days, counting from the date an identifiable application was received.
In order to use expedited service, the candidate needs to go through preliminary review that same day after the application was turned in. This review simply focuses on checking out information provided on the application, so a personal interview is usually not required. There are several cases when expedited service can be used:
- In case all household members are migrant or seasonal workers who have less than $100 in liquid assets and have nothing else to live on.
- In case the value of total liquid assets is $100 and monthly gross income is less than $150.
- And in case the household's monthly income and assets are less than their monthly shelter expenses.
Liquid assets are available cash or any other resource which could be easily converted to cash. These can be savings and checking accounts, bonds, stock, mutual funds and mortgages. Gross income is total earned income plus total unearned income before any allowable deductions.
In case you've got any additional questions regarding SNAP enrollment, you may call the Department of Public Welfare Helpline at 1-800-692-7462. Individuals with hearing impairments may use TDD number at 1-800-541-5886.
In order to be eligible for SNAP benefits, you'll need to meet the following criteria:
- You need to be a U.S. citizen or a legal alien
- You need to be a resident of the state of Pennsylvania
- You need to meet a certain income limits: There are two different groups of potential enrollees with two different income limits. The first groups are enrollees with a current bank balance of $2,001. The second group are enrollees with a current bank balance under $3,000 who share their household with a senior citizen (age 60 and over), or with a person with disability.
- Regardless of which category you're in, you also need to meet a certain annual income limit: If your household has only one member, your annual income needs to be less than $14,079; For a household of two, annual income needs to be less than $18,941; For a household of three, annual income needs to be less than $23,803; For each additional member or your household, you need to add amount of $4,862.
- Finally, your household needs to meet a resource/asset limit:Asset limit for any household that doesn't have an elderly or disabled member is $5,500; Asset limit for any household that has an elderly of disabled member is $9,000. Assets include your current bank balance; cash on hand, cars and motorcycles. On the other hand, there are some assets which are non-countable: the house you live in, one car, income tax returns, retirement account, and life insurance policies.
In order to prove that you're eligible, you'll need to gather the documents which will show that you meet all of the previously listed criteria.
Eligible U.S. citizens are:
- People who were born in the U.S
- People who were naturalized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
- People who got citizenship from parents who were naturalized U.S. citizens
- People who were granted citizenship through any of the government programs or any other official way
You also need to show that you're a resident of the State of Pennsylvania. There's no limit on time you previously needed to spend in this state. You can apply in case you just moved to Pennsylvania and even if you don't plan on staying for a longer period of time.
Food Stamps Application Instructions
In order to start receiving SNAP Food Stamp benefits you'll first need to apply, and these are some of the ways you can do that:
Perhaps the most convenient way is to apply online, via COMPASS website: www.humanservices.state.pa.us/compass.web/CMHOM.aspx. This is a web application used to apply not only for SNAP enrollment, but also for other Pennsylvania-funded programs like medical or cash assistance.
You can also download an application form, which could be found at: www.dpw.state.pa.us/ucmprd/groups/webcontent/documents/form/p_014338.pdf. Once you've filled it out, there are several ways to turn it in. You can do this in person, through an authorized representative, by fax or by mail.
If you choose to turn in your application, in person, to your county assistance office. A full list of county offices can be found here: www.dpw.state.pa.us/findfacilsandlocs/countyassistanceofficecontactinformation.
Additional Application Information
The application can be filed by anyone, regardless of which person is actually applying for benefits. The county assistance office must date-stamp your application, so your SNAP benefits can be paid retroactively if the household is eligible during the month of the application.
Besides having a properly filled out application form, you'll also need to gather additional documents which are used a proof of your eligibility. These documents are:
- An ID, which could be a U.S. passport, or any other state-issued ID document that lists your name and address on it.
- Your income documentation, like a bank statement, which shows your financial activity during the previous month.
- Documentation of your assets; which could be your stocks and bonds, savings accounts or mortgage documentation.
The process of the application and approval usually takes these three steps:
- You'll need to properly fill out an application form and turn it in at your local county assistance office, or via website.
- Next step is to have an interview where you can discuss you situation and where you might need to provide any additional information.
- Final step is to gather and turn in any documentation which proves your eligibility and which is used to calculate the amount of your monthly benefits.