The Washington SNAP food benefits program, also referred to as food stamps or the Basic Food program, is designed to assist residents currently earning a low income in purchasing enough nutritious foods each month to stay healthy and productive. The food stamps benefits can be used by program beneficiaries at authorized retailers to buy food items that are approved by the United States Department of Agriculture. The amount of SNAP benefits that each approved program applicant receives will differ due to household characteristics and financial information provided on the application. The benefits for food stamps program attempts to award benefits to approved applicants as soon as possible after they have successfully completed all application steps with the Department of Social and Health Services. When an applicant is successfully enrolled in the program and benefits are calculated, he or she will receive a Washington benefit card food stamp, also called an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, to gain access to the account and purchase approved food items. To learn more about when food stamp benefits are issued, how the EBT card works and what items can be purchased with program benefits, review the sections below.
Also, download our guide to food stamps for tips on how to apply.
Learn About Food Items You Can Purchase With SNAP in Washington
The Washington SNAP food benefits provided to program beneficiaries should be used to buy healthy and wholesome food items that promote good health and contribute to the well-being of the beneficiary and his or her family members. WA food stamps can be used to purchase junk food items like cakes, candy and soft drinks, but beneficiaries are encouraged to focus their spending on better and healthier choices. The food stamp benefit card can be used to purchase food items including meats, fruits, vegetables, dairy products and grains like cereals and breads.
Luxury food items can also be purchased with WA food stamps benefits, such as lobster or steak. However, beneficiaries are encouraged make smart spending decisions with food stamps so they can easily provide healthy and satiating meals for themselves and their household members while adhering to a strict grocery budget. SNAP benefits will last longer each month and provide more nutritious meals if beneficiaries are careful to purchase food items that are affordable, nourishing and healthy.
Food stamp benefits can be used at authorized retailers that accept the benefit EBT card, including participating farmer’s markets in the state. Select restaurants may also accept Washington EBT benefit cards to pay for low-cost meals provided to homeless, elderly or disabled beneficiaries.
Items You Cannot Buy With Washington SNAP Benefits
Non-food items cannot be purchased with Washington SNAP benefits because the program only provides assistance for the nutritional wellbeing of beneficiaries. To avoid attempting to purchase unapproved items with the food stamps benefit card, beneficiaries should learn the unacceptable items that must be paid for out of pocket. The items that cannot be purchased with WA benefits for food stamps program include the following:
- Alcohol or tobacco related products
- Hot food items, or food pre-prepared for in-store consumption
- Vitamins, medications and supplements
- Household items, pet food, toiletries and cosmetic products
- Cooking utensils or kitchenware
Live animals and birds cannot be purchased using food stamp benefits, but live seafood like shellfish and shrimp can because they are used to prepare balanced meals. Holiday decorations, including gourds, are also ineligible for purchase using SNAP food stamp benefits because they are inedible.
How Long Does It Take to Receive Washington SNAP Benefits After Enrollment?
Once a benefits for food stamps program application has been received, it takes a maximum of 30 days for the Department of Social and Health Services to notify the applicant of his or her program status. Upon acceptance into the program, the approved applicant will receive a notification providing the WA benefits EBT card, instructions for setting up the card for use and an outline of the benefit allotment and calculation. If the food stamp benefit program applicant is denied enrollment in the Basic Food program, a denial notification will cover the reasons he or she was denied.
Expedited Washington SNAP benefits are available to program applicants who qualify to receive benefits within seven days of applying. To be eligible for expedited food stamps, the applicant must provide identification upon application submission and show an extremely low income or little to no assets. If an urgent need for food stamps benefits can be proven by the SNAP applicant, he or she will quickly receive a WA SNAP EBT card with the first benefit payment available to purchase approved food items.
Washington EBT Card Overview
The Washington benefit card food stamp is issued to all eligible applicants who are approved to receive benefits and is also referred to as the Washington Quest EBT card. Qualifying retailers that accept the food stamp benefit card can be identified with a sticker or sign that shows the Quest logo. The WA SNAP food benefits card works like a debit card and allows the beneficiary to access his or her benefits when using a credit card machine at checkout. The total SNAP food stamp benefits used from the beneficiary’s account during a transaction are deducted from the account balance. Each month, the beneficiary receives a direct deposit of the monthly SNAP benefit amount into his or her account, which is only accessible via the Washington Quest EBT card.
Learn About Washington SNAP Benefit Amounts
When determining the amount of Washington SNAP food benefits an approved applicant will be issued monthly, the Department of Social and Health Services must use information provided by the applicant on the application and in the interview. The information used to calculate the SNAP benefits includes:
- Household income, assets and resources.
- Monthly expenses.
- The number of household members.
- Family composition and member characteristics.
After analyzing the household composition and finical situation, the Department of Social and Health Services will determine the monthly SNAP food stamp benefit allotment. Able-bodied SNAP program benefit recipients with no dependents may be required to report working hours to maintain program eligibility.