Food stamps eligibility in Washington is based on factors such as your income, citizenship, residency and more. The food stamp qualifications are determined by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Note that this program is federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In Washington, the program is officially known as Basic Food.
You may use a SNAP calculator to help determine whether you are eligible for services. However, the only sure way to tell if you are qualified is to submit an application to the DSHS. If you qualify, you can receive assistance for a set amount of time. Once this period ends, you must verify that you still meet the requirements in order to keep getting SNAP benefits. Below, learn how to qualify for food stamps in Washington and discover what factors may affect your eligibility in the future.
Citizenship and Residency Requirements for SNAP in Washington
SNAP eligibility is limited to applicants who are U.S. citizens or legally-present aliens. Undocumented immigrants, visitors and non-citizens do not qualify. In a household with a mix of legal and non-legal residents, it is possible to receive a portion of assistance for those who are legally present.
If you do not meet the requirements for Basic Food because of your citizenship, you may qualify for a similar service known as the State Food Assistance Program (FAP). This program has similar benefits to Basic Food, but it is open to applicants who do not qualify for food stamps based solely on their immigration status. You still need to meet all of the other SNAP eligibility requirements to get FAP benefits.
Regardless of your citizenship, you can only meet the food stamp qualifications in Washington if you are a resident of the state. Because each state runs its own food assistance program and the rules are usually similar, you can oftentimes qualify in your home state if you meet the basic requirements in Washington. Refer to your state’s Social Services or Health Department for specific information.
What are the SNAP income guidelines in Washington?
In order to meet the food stamp income guidelines, you must have a limited amount of income. In the past, Washington required you to have an income at or below 130 percent of the poverty level.
Recently, the program has expanded to include applicants whose income is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. This makes it easier to qualify for food stamps than it may have been in the past. If you were previously denied assistance because of your income, you may consider reapplying to see if you qualify under the new income requirements.
Under the income requirements for food stamps, you need to count most sources of income. This can include money you receive from the following:
- Wages from employment or other services.
- Unemployment compensation.
- Payments from a pension.
- Other government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or similar programs.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to take certain deductions. This makes it easier to qualify for food stamps based on your income. During the application process, many families are able to take a standard deduction based on their household size. It may also be possible to deduct some of the following:
- Child support payments you legally owe
- Medical expenses that exceed a certain amount and are not covered by insurance
- A portion of your earned income
- Some of your rent or utility expenses if your costs exceed a certain amount
- The cost of child care, in some situations
The SNAP guidelines also require that you have a limited amount of resources. You might qualify for food stamps in WA without having to report your resources if you already receive other forms of assistance, such as cash benefits. If you do not have food stamps eligibility based on your enrollment in other programs, you will need to meet the resource requirements.
A resource may include a bank account balance, cash, bonds, stocks and other similar things with value. Your home, personal property, life insurance policies or household goods usually do not count as resources for this program.
Learn more about the way resources and income affect your SNAP qualifications in our free guide.
Other Important Food Stamps Qualifications in Washington
There are a few other food stamps eligibility requirements to be aware of. First, you cannot get assistance if you are a fugitive felon. Second, you can only qualify for food stamps if you have a Social Security number (SSN). Each member of your household who wants benefits must have an SSN before getting assistance. However, it is possible to qualify for help if you have applied for an SSN but are waiting for your number to be issued.
Third, your SNAP eligibility may be affected by your employment status. If you are between 16 and 59 years of age, you must register for work in most cases. Registering for work means that you agree to do any of the following, as requested:
- Take any reasonable job offer
- Participate in employment training
- Work the required number of hours per week
- Not quit your job or reduce your work hours without good reason
If you are older than 18 years of age and do not register for work as required, you can only get benefits for three months within a three-year period. Note that you may be exempt from the work requirements altogether if you are pregnant, raising dependent children or disabled. Learn more about the work rules and other requirements by reading our free guide.
How do you maintain your food stamps in Washington?
Your food stamps eligibility is subject to change over time. For example, your benefit amount may increase or decrease if your income changes. In some cases, you may lose your SNAP eligibility altogether if you no longer meet the requirements.
One of the most important things you can do to maintain your eligibility is to follow all of the program rules. Your benefits may be affected if you do any of the following:
- Misuse your benefits by shopping at unapproved stores or buying ineligible items.
- Attempt to buy, sell or trade benefits.
- Provide false information on your application.
- Fail to report changes to the DSHS as required.
Last Updated: February 27, 2023