Food Stamp Basic Eligibility Criteria

(as of October 1, 2011)

Eligibility is generally based on household size, income, housing costs and in some instances, resources.


A household's total gross income from all sources must be less than 130% of the Federal Poverty level:

1 $1,180
2 $1,594
3 $2,008
4 $2,422
5 $2,836
6 $3,249
7 $3,663
8 $4,077
Add $414 for each additional household member.

Effective until 30 Sep 2012

If the household has income above the gross cap, regardless of other household expenses, they are not eligible to receive Food Stamps.

There are some exceptions to the gross income limit:

  • Households that have at least one person who is aged or disabled
  • Households that have high dependant care costs are exempt from the gross income cap, and there no longer is a dependent care maximum/individual.  For example, a single mother working making $400.00/week (full time, $10.00/hr) has income above the income limit for a 2 person household. ($1517).  If she is required to pay $150.00/week for child care in order to be able to work, the HH is considered to be categorically eligible and the case would progress in the budgetary process, and allowable deductions would be considered to determine what the household's monthly Food Stamp benefit would be.

The Federal Poverty levels are adjusted annually, and are updated effective the 1st of October.


Resources (e.g., checking, savings, bonds, stocks, value of motor vehicles, real property) are no longer counted in determining Food Stamp eligibility for most households.

The only persons who are subject to a resource cap of $3,000 are households that have income in excess of 200% of the Federal Poverty level, and who have at least one member of the household who is over age 60 or who is disabled. All other households that pass the gross income test are considered to be categorically eligible, and no longer need to show/disclose resources (any dividends or interest received however, must be declared and verified as it is countable to the household as income).

If the household owns the home that they live in, the house and surrounding property is exempt from resource consideration. Other real property may be exempt if it is producing income consistent with the market rate, which would be counted as income.

There is never a requirement to place a lien on property to receive Food Stamp benefits.

Maximum monthly benefits (zero net income):

1 $200
2 $367
3 $526
4 $668
5 $793
6 $952
7 $1,052
8 $1,202
Add $150 for each additional household member.

Because most households who receive Food Stamps have some income, the average Food Stamps monthly benefit is approximately $150/person.

Expedited Benefits

If households meet the general eligibility criteria, they may also be eligible for expedited processing of benefits at the time they apply.

The basic criteria for expedited eligibility are:

  1. very low income (less than $150 for the month of application) and less than $100 in immediately available resources OR
  2. shelter costs that exceed the monthly income and resources on hand.

Expedited Food Stamps are 2-6 weeks worth of benefits issued within 5 calendar days after the application date in order to give the household time to collect necessary documentation and complete the full eligibility process. No further benefits can be issued to the household until all documentation is received and a full eligibility determination is accomplished.

We receive many inquiries from people who know they're not eligible for regular Food Stamps benefits, but ask if they can just get emergency benefits. The Food Stamps program does not provide for emergency benefits in that way. Expedited benefits are issued to households who meet the general eligibility criteria: you may demonstrate eligibility for expedited processing, and still not be eligible to receive Food Stamps benefits.