Revised October 2, 2023
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also formerly known as “Food Stamps”, is the largest federal nutrition assistance program that provides eligible, low-income individuals and households with monthly funds to purchase groceries and nutritious foods through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
This toolkit will provide an overview of SNAP program eligibility and benefits, state policies, and best practices for outreach. We encourage our food bank members and community partners to use the following resources to assist during SNAP outreach and the application process.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly funds to individuals and families to buy nutritious foods at various grocery stores, local corner stores, and farmers’ markets. Program benefits are restricted to eligible low-income households and families struggling to afford healthy and nutritious foods. Individuals already participating in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), General Relief (GR), and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) automatically qualify for SNAP. The following summary provides an overview of program rules and regulations.
Who can receive SNAP benefits:
- U.S. Citizens
- Qualified legal immigrants (read more)
- Citizen or permanent resident children of undocumented immigrants
- Low-income workers
- Individuals experiencing homelessness
- Individuals living in domestic violence shelters, community mental health centers, drug and alcohol treatment centers, and homeless shelters
Who cannot receive SNAP benefits:
- Undocumented immigrants
- Most individuals on strike
- Previous program violators (under certain circumstances)
SNAP Eligibility Requirements
SNAP eligibility is determined by household size, income tests (gross income and net income), and asset tests. Effective July 2021, the state of Virginia adopted Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) to apply less restrictive income and asset tests to households that meet certain criteria such as receiving a non-cash TANF/MOE-funded service. This policy change allowed the state to raise the SNAP gross income limit from 130% to 200% of the Federal Poverty Level and remove the resource asset test for BBCE eligible households.
SNAP caseworkers will determine which households qualify for BBCE or regular program rules, so SNAP outreach staff are recommended to pre-screen applicants for eligibility using the 200% FPL Gross Income Limit until verified by a caseworker.
- SNAP households can be comprised of:
- Individuals living alone
- Individuals living with others but prepare food for themselves and apart from others in the home
- A group of individuals living together who customarily purchase and prepare meals for all members of the household
- To be considered as one household, the following members are required to be counted:
- A spouse of a household member/applicant
- Children under 18 years of age and are under parental control of an adult household member/applicant
- Children under 21 years of age or younger who live with natural or adoptive parents unless parental rights have been terminated or severed through divorce
- Individuals in foster care:
- Have the option of including individuals in foster care as part of their household or excluding them. Foster care payments will be counted as income to the foster household if the household includes the foster individual as a household member
- An individual in foster care who resides with others, may not be considered as a separate SNAP household
- Gross income: is the total monthly household income from both job and non-job sources before taxes and deductions
- The gross monthly income of broad-based categorically eligible households may not exceed 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
- For non-categorically eligible households, gross monthly income may not exceed 130% of the FPL
- Net income: is the income equal to your gross monthly income minus applicable deductions
- The net income determines the amount of SNAP benefits households will receive
- Although categorically eligible households (excluding BBCE) do not have to meet either gross or net income limits, the net income limit will determine allotments for those households
|200% of FPL Gross Income Limit
|130% of FPL Gross Income Limit
|100% of FPL Net Income Limit
|Each additional member
- Only liquid assets count when determining household eligibility. Some examples of liquid assets include (but are not limited to):
- Cash on hand
- Money in checking, savings or share accounts
- Lottery or gambling winnings
- Stocks or bonds
- Resources that do not count when determining eligibility include (but are not limited to):
- Home (real property or mobile home)
- Household goods
- Money in pension or retirement plans
Special rules for elderly and disabled members
- Households with at least one elderly or disabled member only have to meet net income limits (100% of FPL) and an asset test if they do not pass the gross income limit
- If the household does meet the gross income limits, there is an asset limit of $4,250. This means that any resource in the form of cash or can be turned into a form of cash such as savings, checking accounts, stocks, mutual funds, and some types of life insurance must not exceed $4,250.
- Households with at least one member who is 60 or above, or disabled that usually purchase and prepare food separately from others in the household:
- May be allowed as a separate household determined on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Social Services (DSS)
- Separate household status is also allowed for the spouse of an elderly or disabled member
- The gross income of the remaining household members (not including income of elderly/disabled members and spouses) may not exceed 165% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines listed below:
|165% Income limit
|Each additional member
Individuals between 16-59 must meet general work requirements to receive SNAP benefits, unless exempt under federal law. These general work requirements include:
- Registering for work
- Accepting an offer of suitable employment
- Participating in workfare or SNAP E&T if assigned by state agency
- Not voluntarily quitting or reducing hours of employment below 30 hours a week (without good cause)
Individuals exempt from general work requirements, will not be subject to the Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) time limit and work requirement. However, those that are not exempt from general work requirements may be subject to the ABAWD time limit and work requirement, and, therefore, need to meet two separate
sets of work requirements.
ABAWD Time Limit and Work Requirements
Able-bodied individuals between the ages 18 to 52 are limited to receiving benefits for 3 months within a 3 year period unless working or actively engaged in a work activity. However, individuals may be evaluated by DSS to receive benefits through a special exemption and extend certification for up to six months.
To receive SNAP benefits for more than three months, all nonexempt able-bodied household members must do any combination of the following activities:
- Work for 20 hours or more per week
- Participate in an employment services program provided by DSS for 20 hours or more per week (or number of hours assigned)
- Participate in non-departmental work programs for 20 hours or more per week
- Serve in an unpaid volunteer capacity at a public or private agency
The following individuals are exempt from the work requirement:
- Unable to work due to a physical or mental limitation
- Have someone under 18 in your SNAP household
- Excused from the general work requirements (see above)
- A veteran
- Experiencing homelessness
- Age 24 or younger and in foster care on your 18th birthday
SNAP Benefits and Deductions
SNAP eligibility is also based on the net income of a household after applicable deductions have been made by the Department of Social Services. The net income is determined by subtracting deduction amounts from the gross income. Once all applicable deductions are made by a caseworker, the net income must not exceed 100% of the Federal Poverty Level to receive SNAP benefits.
If you are an application assistor, use the SNAP calculator to determine an estimation of benefit amounts. The following is a list of deductions that may be applied to households under certain requirements:
- Each household is entitled to a standard deduction that is dependent on the number of eligible household members as shown below:
Earned Income Deduction
- Each household with earned income will receive a 20% deduction of gross income earnings. This means that any household that receives income from a job or self-employment could receive a 20% deduction from their gross income amount.
- For example:
$2,000 of gross income
20% of $2,000 = $400
$2000 – $400 = $1,600 net income
Dependent Care Expense Deduction
- This deduction may only be applied if it is necessary for a household to pay for dependent care expenses (e.g., daycare) in order to continue, accept, seek or comply with employment requirements
- Expenses that qualify as dependent care or medical expenses may be deducted as either category but not as both expenses
Shelter Expenses Deduction
- Shelter deductions may only be applied after all other deductions have been determined
- A household must add together expenses that are part of the cost of a shelter excluding food costs. Examples of shelter costs include:
- Rent, mortgage, or loan payments
- Real estate taxes or personal property taxes on mobile homes
- Insurance premiums for home structures
- Repair costs from non-foreseeable disasters such as floods or fires
- Utilities (even if LIHEAP covers partial costs)
- If the monthly shelter cost exceeds 50% of the household’s adjusted net income there will be a deduction of up to $672 per month
- The adjusted net income is determined by subtracting (if applicable) standard, earned income, dependent care, child support, homeless shelter, and medical deductions from the total gross income
- Households with an elderly or disabled member may receive additional shelter deductions
- Households will receive the actual amount that exceeds half of the adjusted net income
- Standard utility allowances:
- Households may also use the standard utility allowance only if they are responsible for heating and cooling costs or if they receive LIHEAP benefits
- In some cases, households may use the utility standard, as shown below, as its utility expense rather than the actual utility expense cost
- The standard includes costs associated with:
- Sewage/Septic maintenance fees
- Garbage collection
- The standard utility allowance is based on the number of members in the household:
|Number of persons
- Medical expenses paid by elderly or disabled household members are allowed a deduction when the cost exceeds $35 a month
- Expenses below $35 will not receive a deduction
- The $35 limit applies to the entire household and not applied individually to the expenses of the members entitled to the deduction
- The medical standard deduction is $200, but medical deductions over $235 can use actual medical expense amounts if verified
- Allowable expenses may include:
- Medical and dental care, including psychotherapy and rehabilitation services provided by authorized, licensed, or qualified health professionals
- Hospitalization or outpatient treatment, nursing care/home
- Prescriptive or other over-the-counter medication when prescribed by licensed or qualified practitioners
- Cost of medical supplies, sick room equipment (including rentals), or other prescribed equipment
- Health and hospitalization insurance policy premiums
- Medicare premiums related to Title XVIII of the Social Security Act
- Cost of dentures, hearing aids, and prosthetics
- Cost of securing and maintaining a service animal
- Cost of eyeglasses
- Cost of a care attendant
Homeless Shelter Allowance
- Households in which all members of the household are homeless are allowed a shelter standard deduction
- To be eligible, a household must spend or expect to spend shelter costs during a month
- Homeless households that do not spend shelter costs during the month and do not anticipate any costs are not eligible for the shelter allowance
- “A homeless individual claims to have incurred shelter costs for several nights in a hotel. The costs reported are reasonable” (VDSS SNAP Manual, Volume V, Part X, A. 6.)
For more information, please visit VPLC’s Getting SNAP Benefits in Virginia to use as an additional resource guide when applying for SNAP. For specific SNAP regulations and rules, view the current SNAP Manual.
- The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) ended May 11, 2023. Virginia SNAP agencies will return to standard program operations and will not proceed with previous flexibilities given to states.
- Previous flexibilities:
- Temporary Student Exemptions: Beginning June 10th, college students that were previously eligible for SNAP may lose eligibility unless they are actively participating in a state/federal funded work-study program or meet certain exemption requirements.
- SNAP Time Limits Return: The 3-month time limit to receive SNAP benefits for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) will start again July 1, 2023. ABAWD between the ages of 18-49 will be required to meet work requirements or may begin to lose benefits starting October 2023.
- Effective December 23, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule that codified into regulation; applying for or receiving federal nutrition assistance benefits (e.g., SNAP) will not be considered when making public charge determination
- This means that any application for or receipt of SNAP benefits by an individual or their family members will not affect their immigration status
- To see if the public charge applies to you, use the following Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) resources
- Beginning March 2023, emergency allotments will no longer continue.
- The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 passed by Congress in December, concludes the authorization that allowed states the option to issue Emergency Allotments (EA) nationwide. All SNAP households will return to pre-pandemic benefit amounts and not receive the additional supplemental benefits.
- The last issuance of EA benefits in Virginia will be automatically added onto SNAP participants Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards on February 16th.
- Participating SNAP households will see a minimum reduction of $95 to their monthly benefit amount.
- SNAP recipients received the maximum allowable benefit for their household size or a blanket increase of $95, whichever was a larger increase.
- Although the exact benefit amount for each household will vary due to household size and income, households with little to no net income will experience the smallest cut in benefits while households with larger net incomes will receive larger cuts
- For more information, please see the Virginia SNAP Emergency Allotment Toolkit in Additional Resources.
- Refer neighbors to Feeding America’s SNAP Benefit Changes page for information on important changes to the SNAP program.
- Within the past 4 months, the U.S. Department of Agriculture collaborated with additional vendor partners to add 44 retailers to the existing program
- More than 150 retailer chains are now offering online shopping to SNAP participants
- Online purchasing has been expanded to 49 states and the District of Columbia
- Starting Oct. 1, 2021, all Virginia SNAP participants will see an increase in benefits due to USDA’s recent update to the Thrifty Food Plan methodology, the first since 1975
- This increase in SNAP benefits is based on the Thrifty Food Plan’s estimation of the cost of groceries needed to provide a healthy diet for a family of four
- On average, SNAP households will receive an increase in benefits of about $36 per person or about $1.20 per day
- The amount of benefit increase based on household size is shown in the table below:
|Amount of SNAP Benefit Increase
- Starting July 1st, 2020, applicants with previous drug-related felony convictions may now apply for SNAP benefits in Virginia
- As a result of this new policy, eligibility for federal food assistance cannot be denied solely due to drug-related felonies as long as the person is complying with:
- Obligations imposed by the criminal court and/or Department of Social Services
- Actively engaged or completed a substance abuse treatment program
- Participates in periodic drug screenings
- In previous years, roughly 1,800 applicants with drug-related felonies were rejected from receiving benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Outreach Strategies & Best Practices
Outreach efforts help connect community members with information and enrollment in SNAP. Many eligible individuals do not have access to information about SNAP and the benefits they qualify for, leaving gaps in participation in the program. Several barriers such as language, literacy, and/or stigma prevent individuals from accessing information and applying for benefits. Outreach is a great way to target underrepresented populations with effective messaging, resources, and to help assist those who are interested in applying.
SNAP outreach efforts are most effective when tailored toward specific audiences. Below are examples of methods and best practices that may be used when developing an outreach plan.
Types of Outreach Methods:
- Prescreening applicants for eligibility
- Application assistance for SNAP applications
- Community Engagement
- Posting flyers and other handouts
- Digital outreach
- Social media advertisements
- GSNAP (Google SNAP ads)
- Adding a SNAP button to school websites for families and caregivers to access more information about SNAP or get referred to partner organizations with application assistors
- Target your population
- Provide outreach in areas where community members live or have the most access to information
- Provide program information in appropriate languages and literacy levels to ensure outreach messaging reaches the specific community
- Communicate with caregivers and school officials to incorporate SNAP information into school events
- Ensure outreach staff and volunteers are properly trained
- Refine screening and application procedures
- Use VPLC’s free SNAP Calculator when prescreening applicants for determination of eligibility and benefits
- Provide eligible seniors with the Elderly Simplified Application
- Practice effective communication:
- Listen actively to neighbors and their current situations
- Understand cultural and generational differences
- Address questions and concerns
- Provide referrals to alternative programs for those who do not qualify for SNAP such as:
- Food bank programs (mobile food distribution, healthy food pantries, etc.)
- Demonstrate the value of additional benefits that may be combined with SNAP participation. Below is a table summary of the average monthly benefits from additional programs that may be received if you qualify for SNAP benefits.
|Average Monthly Benefit
|$23 minimum allotment
|Energy Bill Assistance
|$20-50 monthly savings
|Phone Bill Assistance
|$9.25 monthly savings
|Affordable Connectivity Program – formerly known as Emergency Broadband Benefit program
|$30 monthly savings
|Total Benefit Amount:
|$80-100 monthly savings
- Highlight SNAP Incentive Programs – SNAP incentive programs allow retailers and farmer’s markets to incentivize SNAP participants to purchase healthy foods by increasing the buying power of their benefits. The following are SNAP incentive programs in Virginia:
- Virginia Fresh Match (VFM): A voluntary network of farmer’s markets that agree to double the SNAP benefits received/spent with a farmer vendor
- A partnership between Virginia Fresh Match and the Virginia Farmers Market Association
- Encourages consumption of fresh and healthy food from local farmers
- SNAP Retailer Incentive Waiver
- Virginia Fresh Match (VFM): A voluntary network of farmer’s markets that agree to double the SNAP benefits received/spent with a farmer vendor
Targeted Outreach Messaging
SNAP outreach is a critical component to increasing awareness of program benefits by educating underserved populations and communities. The USDA’s Federal Nutrition Service (FNS) has committed to increasing access to SNAP by encouraging states to develop a SNAP outreach plan. The guidance is focused on strengthening partnerships between community organizations and the specific outreach priority areas that have been identified as historically underserved and/or marginalized. The following are the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 SNAP outreach priority areas recommended by FNS:
- Supporting previous participants during the transition from COVID-19 federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) flexibilities to normal program activities
- Immigrant communities and mixed-status families
- Older adults/seniors
- Racial equity
When performing outreach, it is essential to recognize the social and cultural needs of a community or other demographic differences to aid with targeted outreach. Neighbors in certain communities may require different program details relevant to their current situation such as medical income deductions or program information in their preferred language. By engaging in effective outreach messaging, potentially eligible applicants are more likely to participate and understand program details. Below are some examples of considerations for your outreach to specific demographic groups.
- Enhance social service skills
- Seniors and elderly populations experience various challenges and struggles that hinder their ability to access services
- Allow your neighbor to be heard. Provide space for them to discuss their barriers and issues. Examples include:
- “Could you tell me more about that…”
- Validate their statements by repeating their concerns during discussions or describing their feelings. This helps the individual see that you are actively listening and understanding their situation, with empathy. Examples include:
- “It sounds like you’re having issues with…”
- “I’m sorry you are going through that. This is how we can help…”
- Educate and empower
- Many vulnerable seniors are not familiar with modern technology or have access to information regarding program benefits
- Breakdown myths and misconceptions of SNAP
- Many seniors may have grown up with the stigmatization of “food stamps”
- Empower neighbors to make an informed decision based on their situation
- Provide sufficient information about program benefits and allow them to make an informed decision on whether or not to apply
- Inform them about the Medicare Savings Programs
- Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program: covers monthly Medicare Part A (hospital insurance costs) premiums and Part B (medical insurance costs) premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments. The monthly income limit for a single household member is $1,133 and $1,526 for a couple.
- Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program: covers monthly Medicare Part B (medical insurance) premiums only. The monthly income limit for a single household member is $1,359 and $1,831 for a couple.
- Qualified Individual (QI) Program: covers monthly Medicare Part B (medical insurance) premiums only. The monthly income limit for a single household is $1,529 and $2,060 for a couple
- Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program: helps pay for Part A (hospital insurance costs) premiums only. The monthly income limit for a single household is $2,265 or $3,052 for a couple.
If you qualify for the QMB, SLMB, or QI programs, you automatically qualify to get ExtraHelp for Medicare drug coverage
For more information about SNAP, please use the following resources:
SNAP Outreach Materials & Resources
For more information about SNAP or SNAP Outreach in Virginia, please contact Nicole Salinas at email@example.com.