It is important to know your food stamps eligibility before applying for assistance. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) only approves households that fall below the federal poverty level (FPL). However, you must also pass several other requirements to receive benefits, including citizenship and work requirements.
The food stamp qualifications in Iowa are determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the IA Department of Human Services (DHS). Understanding what you need to qualify and why you must provide certain information will help you during the application process. Keep in mind that each member of your household who wishes to receive benefits must meet all the eligibility requirements.
Citizenship and Residency Requirements for SNAP in Iowa
In order to have SNAP eligibility in IA, you must be a permanent resident in the state. You must also be a U.S. citizen or a legal non-citizen. To prove your citizenship or non-citizenship status, your local DHS office may require you to present your birth certificate, visa card or some other documentation that verifies your status.
Federal guidelines state that some lawful permanent residents (LPRs) must have lived a minimum of five years in the U.S. legally before they can apply for benefits. This includes, but is not limited to:
- LPRs who have been credited with at least 40 quarters of work.
- Non-citizens who were granted conditional entry.
- Battered spouses, children or parents who are awaiting a decision on their petitions.
If you are seeking asylum, you may qualify for food stamps in Indiana without having to wait five years before applying. Other applicants who are exceptions to the five-year rule include:
- Non-citizen children.
- Human trafficking victims.
- Cuban or Haitian entrants as defined under the Refugee Education Assistance Act.
- Certain American Indians who were born abroad.
- LPRs who are disabled or blind and receive government assistance.
- LPRs who have a connection to the U.S. military, such as veterans and the spouses of veterans.
In addition to providing documentation of your legal presence, you must list your Social Security Number (SSN) on the application. In fact, every household member who wishes to receive benefits must have an SSN or be in the process of applying for one.
If a household member does not qualify based on these criteria, you may leave his or her SSN section of the application blank. Keep in mind that his or her income will still be factored into your household income.
You may use a SNAP calculator to predict whether you or a household member qualifies based on citizenship requirements. In general, a calculator or pre-screening tool will ask you several questions regarding your household size, age, monthly earnings, forms of unearned income, utility bills and medical expenses. It will then use all of the information you provide to determine your chances of receiving benefits and how much you will receive. Learn more about the citizenship and residency requirements of SNAP when you download our free guide.
What are the SNAP income guidelines in Iowa?
The SNAP income guidelines, which are updated annually, are the maximum income levels for different household sizes. These levels are based on 130 percent of the FPL.
If you have a family of three, for instance, your household income must fall below the maximum income level for a three-person household. The Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) branch of the USDA states that a family of three may qualify if their monthly gross earnings do not exceed $2,252, and their monthly net income does not exceed $1,732. If it does, you may be denied benefits.
To see whether you meet this requirement, you must determine your monthly gross income and net income. To calculate gross income, combine the monthly earnings of each working household member. To calculate net income, you must subtract allowable deductions.
The food stamp income guidelines state that every household is entitled to a 20 percent deduction from monthly earnings. Applicants may also take a standard deduction, which may be $160 or higher depending on the number of people living in the household.
Other allowable deductions, depending on your circumstances, include:
- Dependent care deduction, if you or a family member needs it for work, training or education.
- Medical expenses deduction.
- Excess shelter costs, if your utility bills and other housing expenses go over a certain amount.
- And more.
The medical expenses deduction applies to you if you are above a certain age or have a disability. In this case, your out-of-pocket medical expenses must exceed a certain amount.
According to the income requirements for food stamps in Iowa, you must also report all forms of unearned income and assets. These include:
- Cash on hand.
- Money in savings accounts.
- Real estate.
- Stocks and bonds.
- Vehicles, unless the value of the vehicle falls under a certain amount.
Forms of unearned income that will not be counted include child support payments, foster care assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), retirement savings and more.
In addition, the SNAP guidelines state that seniors and people with disabilities may have slightly different income requirements.
Other Important Food Stamps Qualifications in Iowa
After you learn how to qualify for food stamps in IN based on your income, you must learn the other eligibility requirements. First, every able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD) in your household must be employed. Other work requirements include:
- Maintaining your job to the best of your ability. In other words, you may not voluntarily quit or reduce your hours.
- Taking a job if you do not currently have one and an offer is extended.
- Taking part in employment and training programs.
If you are a student, you must provide documentation that proves you are enrolled in an approved school.
In addition, you and your household members must agree to a background check. If criminal activity appears on your background check, you may be denied benefits in the state.
How do you maintain your food stamps in Iowa?
Maintaining your food stamps eligibility is relatively easy if you follow the rules and regulations. It is important to use your benefits responsibly and to only buy approved food items. In addition, you must report changes to your circumstances if and when they occur. For instance, losing your job or receiving higher pay would count as a change in circumstance. Additionally, if you trade benefits on your electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, you could lose benefits automatically.
While you may eventually lose your eligibility if you begin to make more money, the consequences of not reporting this type of change are worse. Find out other ways to maintain your benefits when you download our free guide.