The group at Food-Stamps.org knows that many Americans struggle to make end meet, and feeding their families is an especially difficult task on a fixed income. Thankfully, the federal government created a food assistance program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for low-income and needy families that assist with essential food items. However, families who need and rely on food assistance benefits are vulnerable when their benefits are late or inaccessible due to system error. Other times, families need SNAP benefits and food assistance immediately but must wait for approval. In such instances, low-income families may not know the first step to take when they cannot access food assistance benefits.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal food assistance program designed to help families in need. In order to qualify for SNAP benefits, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established criteria for families to meet. The criteria includes income, disability status, household size and household resources, and the household must report any changes in the criteria to the appropriate state departments.
SNAP Benefits Overview
SNAP benefits are monthly payouts to recipients on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which function like banking debit cards. Customers receive automatic deposits into their EBT accounts, and they receive the EBT cards in the mail or from their SNAP caseworkers. SNAP benefits have restrictions regarding use, and not all facilities accept SNAP benefits, so customers may wish to check online or with cashiers at their locals grocery marts and stores before checkout. Edible items like bread, fruits and vegetables and meats are eligible for EBT purchases, but hot or prepared foods are not.
Late or Inaccessible Benefits
In any instances of non-payment of SNAP benefits, the SNAP recipient should contact the local SNAP office as soon as possible to inquire about the status. The group at Food-Stamps.org encourages customers to monitor their accounts frequently when they are expecting SNAP benefits, and to check through an online EBT portal for any status updates, if possible. Customers who do not receive their SNAP benefits in a timely manner should make sure to contact their local office by phone, via email or through an in-person visit, until they reach resolutions or find satisfactory answers on their benefits statuses.
Although the SNAP benefits are easy to use and helpful for low-income families, SNAP benefits are not immune from clerical errors and system malfunctions, causing concern among recipients across the country. SNAP offices may approve new applicants for benefits, but the EBT card may be late or benefits have not deposited. SNAP recipients may wish to look to online resources or social media regarding EBT systems outages – some websites provide places for SNAP recipients to report issues with particular areas, stores or larger areas, like entire states or regions. Sometimes customers may go grocery shopping, but their EBT cards or the EBT system is inaccessible. Store cashiers have paper vouchers to fill out and record the sale of the EBT items. Before the customer leaves the store, however, the cashier must contact the SNAP customer service line and verify customer funds.
Expedited SNAP Benefits
Qualified SNAP applicants should receive their benefits within 30 days of application submission. However, some low-income families may need more immediate assistance, and eligible households may benefit from expedited food stamps, which provides SNAP benefits within seven days. Expedited SNAP benefit eligibility depends on a low household income and assets that will not sustain the household over the traditional SNAP waiting period. The household will still have to do a complete SNAP benefit application, but this allows families earlier access to food assistance benefits. These expedited benefits are not additional SNAP benefits, but merely the amount the household would receive in the first month after the standard 30-day waiting period. The group at Food-Stamps.org urges applicants to inquire about the expedited SNAP benefits upon application submission for faster assistance, if needed.
Immediate Food Assistance
Although government agencies strive to provide for residents, some families require immediate assistance that states cannot timely provide. The group at Food-Stamps.org urges such families to find local food banks and shelters for food and food products. Churches, homeless shelters and nonprofit food organizations often provide meal service or canned goods to help families with limited resources. Customers should make sure to contact food banks for any required documentation, as some locations serve only residents of the given county or city. Many of these food resources may provide assistance or information for government welfare programs for applicants who have additional questions.
Many food banks across the country receive goods from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). TEFAP is a federal program that purchases foodstuffs, including canned foods and fresh produce, and distributes them among the states. The amount of food received by the state is dependent on the unemployed population and the amount of residents below poverty line, and the state then, in turn, distributes these food goods to local food supply agencies. The agencies that supply food are subject to regulations that require the agency to prove that they serve a low-income population if serving cooked meals or that the household receiving foods are eligible through state determine criteria, like welfare recipients or low-income households.
The group at Food-Stamps.org encourages families to seek cooking tips from food assistance organization to help utilize available meal components in the house or from the food bank. The food banks or assistance resources may provide recipes that help families cook filling and creative meals to make the most of the available ingredients.