Beneficiaries use Pennsylvania SNAP food benefits to purchase approved food items that will contribute to healthy and nourishing meals for the household. Food stamps benefits are meant to assist low-income families with purchasing groceries so they can remain healthy and productive, even while dealing with a financial hardship. PA SNAP benefits are issued once an applicant has completed an interview with a Department of Human Services representative and is approved for the program. The amount of benefits for food stamps program will vary by beneficiary, depending on household information shared by the applicant on the application and in the interview. Benefits are issued using a PA benefit card food stamp, also known as an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. To learn more about SNAP benefits, download our guide. You can a continue reading below for an overview of Pennsylvania food stamp benefits.
Learn About Food Items You Can Purchase With SNAP in Pennsylvania
With SNAP food stamps, a beneficiary can purchase many food items that can be used to create healthy and nutrient-dense meals. The categories of food items that can be purchased using PA food stamps benefits include:
- Grains, such as breads and cereals
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat, including poultry and fish
- Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese
A Pennsylvania SNAP food benefit card can also be used to purchase seeds or plants that will produce edible items for the household, including herbs, fruits or vegetables. Energy drinks can be purchased using food program benefits if they have nutrition labels instead of supplement labels. While program beneficiaries are discouraged from buying ‘junk food’ items like soft drinks, candy and cookies, these items can be purchased using SNAP benefits. The food stamp benefit card can be used to purchase approved food items at authorized retailers and qualifying farmer’s markets. Some local restaurants may also allow low-cost meals to be paid for with SNAP program benefits, but the beneficiary should confirm with the restaurant before attempting to make a purchase.
Items You Cannot Buy With Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits
Pennsylvania SNAP food benefits cannot be used to buy items that will not contribute to the diet of a beneficiary and his or her family members. SNAP food stamp benefits will not be accepted when attempting to purchase household items, toiletries, cosmetics or pet supplies. The program also forbids the purchase of tobacco or alcohol with a food stamp benefit card. Vitamins, medicines and supplements cannot be purchased using PA food stamps benefits and hot foods that are pre-prepared and meant to be eaten in the store cannot be bought with an EBT card. SNAP food stamp benefits cannot be used in the purchase of food items that are non-consumable, such as gourds that are generally used for holiday decoration. Lastly, gift baskets or special occasion bakery items cannot be purchased with SNAP program benefits if decoration or gift elements make up 50 percent or more of their values.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits After Enrollment?
PA SNAP benefits can start from the day an applicant submits a completed application to the Department of Human Services, if the applicant is deemed as eligible to receive benefits. The notification of eligibility will be sent to the applicant within 30 days of application submission. Pennsylvania food stamps benefits will only be approved for issuance if the applicant has completed an interview with the Department of Human Services representative and turned in all paperwork, identification and documentation as requested. Expedited SNAP food stamps may be issued to applicants who meet an extremely low-income threshold and show an urgent need for financial food assistance. An expedited food stamp benefit payment is sent to the eligible applicant within seven days. However, he or she is still responsible for completing the interview and documentation submission to continue receiving SNAP program benefits and to maintain eligibility with the program.
Pennsylvania EBT Card Overview
All PA SNAP food benefits are issued to beneficiaries through an EBT card, also referred to as the Pennsylvania Access Card, which is sent in the mail after eligibility is confirmed. The food stamp benefit card can easily be used at authorized retailers or farmer’s markets like a bank card is used. Once approved food items are chosen, the beneficiary visits a cashier and uses the credit card machine to complete the transaction. He or she must choose ‘EBT’ as the payment method and type in the personal identification number (PIN) associated with the PA SNAP benefits card to access the account. Upon completion, the total amount of food stamp benefits used in the transaction are deducted from the beneficiary’s account. To complete SNAP food stamp benefit card administrative duties, such as changing the PIN, reporting a damaged card or checking the account balance, a beneficiary can call the EBT hotline.
Learn About Pennsylvania SNAP Benefit Amounts
There are many factors used in calculating the amount of Pennsylvania food stamp benefits a SNAP recipient is issued. The most important factors the Department of Human Services uses to determine food stamp benefit allotment include:
- Household earnings and income.
- Monthly expenses, including medical bills or utility expenses.
- Number of household members.
- Characteristics of household members, including ages and disabilities.
PA SNAP food benefits will be greater each month for beneficiaries who earn less income and have more dependents and expenses. The amount of SNAP food stamps allotted to a single beneficiary who earns a higher income and experiences lower monthly expenses will be much less. The food stamp program benefits calculated after the application is submitted may change if the beneficiary experiences a change in income, expenses or household composition. It is important for beneficiaries to report any changes to the Department of Human Services so Pennsylvania SNAP benefits can be recalculated. It is the beneficiary’s responsible to pay back any food stamp benefits that were overpaid because of a failure to report household changes.