You may want to apply for nutrition assistance, formerly known as food stamps, if you and your family have very low income and struggle to afford basic living expenses. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides qualified applicants with monetary benefits, which may be used to buy food items in grocery stores, farmers markets and certain other businesses. In this state, the program is maintained by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES).
The Arizona SNAP program has many eligibility requirements, all of which must be met before you can receive benefits. This includes maximum income levels, work requirements and more. In addition, approximately 919,000 residents of the state participate in SNAP, and over 72 percent of those recipients are families with children. Learn more about eligibility, the application process and how to use monetary benefits below.
Learn About Arizona Food Stamps Requirements
Food stamps eligibility in AZ depends on a variety of factors. First, your local food assistance office will assess your citizenship status. You must be a U.S. citizen or a legal non-citizen living in Arizona in order to apply for benefits in the state.
Thus, you must enter a Social Security Number (SSN) for you and every family member who wishes to receive benefits. Note that you are not required to enter your SSN if you are applying on another person’s behalf.
If you are a legal non-citizen, you must have lived in the U.S. for a minimum of five years before you can apply for benefits. Exceptions to this rule include immigrants with disabilities, refugees and asylum seekers.
Next, the food stamp qualifications state that your income must not exceed the maximum income level set by the DES. These levels depend on the number of people in your household. For instance, the income of a four-person household must not exceed roughly $33,500 per year.
To calculate your total gross income, combine the earnings of every working family member and do not factor in taxes. Unearned income may also be counted, including savings, bonds, investments and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Forms of unearned income that will not count include childcare payments and foster care payments.
If you do not have SNAP eligibility in Arizona based on income alone, you may qualify based on certain deductions. You are entitled, for example, to a standard deduction depending on the number of people in your household, a medical deduction depending on your age and whether you have a disability, shelter expenses and more.
After reviewing the AZ SNAP income guidelines, you must make sure that your family meets the work requirements. All able-bodied adults without dependents must be registered to work, and they may not voluntarily reduce their hours or quit their jobs.
If you want to know more about eligibility, you may use an Arizona eligibility screening tool, which will predict whether you qualify for benefits. You may also download our free guide on the SNAP program for more information.
How to Apply for Food Stamps in Arizona
When you apply for food stamps, which are now known as SNAP benefits, you will need to reference a number of documents while completing the application form.
The following documents will be extremely helpful to have on hand:
- Proof of citizenship or legal residency
- Proof of SSNs for all family members
- A document that verifies your address
- Proof of your employment and the employment of working family members
If you want to submit an AZ food stamp application by mail or by fax, you must first request one from your local food assistance office. To do so, call your office directly, or call the state-wide phone number for mail-in applications. Once you receive the application in the mail, fill it out and mail or fax it to your local office.
You may also apply for food stamps online if you prefer a quicker submission method. The online application may be completed through a DES website. Note that you must first create an account.
Submitting a SNAP application online may save you money and time, and your food assistance office will receive the application more quickly. The date that your submission is received is important, because it may be used to determine your benefit amount for the first month.
If you are having trouble completing your application, contact an assistor. A list of available assistors in your area is located on the DES website.
After you apply for SNAP food stamps in AZ, you will be asked to complete an eligibility interview. At the interview, be sure to bring verifiable documents regarding your:
- Income level.
- Citizenship status.
- And more.
Your interviewer may ask you to explain certain portions of your application form and expand upon certain subjects. You may also ask about your rights and responsibilities if you receive benefits through the program.
Find Out About SNAP Benefits in Arizona
Qualified applicants who receive AZ SNAP benefits may use them in authorized grocery stores and farmers markets. However, they may purchase only certain items in these stores, as certain products do not qualify under SNAP regulations.
Rather than receiving food stamp benefits, your monthly benefits will be loaded onto an electronic benefit card (EBT), which looks and works like a debit card. You may use an EBT card to purchase:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Red meat, poultry, fish and meat substitutes.
- Dairy products.
- Breads, cereals and grains.
- Snack foods.
- Certain beverages.
- Seeds and live plants, which will produce edible foods
You may also use an EBT card to buy condiments, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard or vinegar, and foods that complement meals, such as spices, herbs, honey and jam. To learn more about the rules surrounding SNAP benefits, download our free guide.
You may not use your SNAP food benefits to buy the following:
- Alcoholic beverages or tobacco products
- Vitamins, medicines and supplement foods
- Live animals
- Prepared foods
- Hot foods
- Pet foods
- Cleaning supplies, toiletries or cosmetics
It may be difficult to determine whether certain grocery store items fall under acceptable or prohibited foods. For example, you may purchase live shellfish from a store regardless of the rule on live animals.
In addition, your benefits from SNAP assistance may be used to buy pre-made bakery items, such as muffins or cakes, but they may not be used for hot meals.
Name: Arizona Department of Economic Security
Phone Number: 855-432-7587
Address: 4000 N Central Ave #500, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Director: Michael Trailor