SNAP can help make ends meet in hard times

With so many Nebraskans facing unemployment and reduced income, many are confronting challenges making ends meet. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can help. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, can help individuals and families get nutritious food on their tables.

Who is eligible for SNAP?

Because of the major economic changes caused by COVID-19 many people may find themselves eligible for SNAP for the first time. In general, SNAP is available to households with little or no income, including those that are recently unemployed.

To be eligible households may not earn more than a set gross income every month. For example, an individual may earn no more than about $1,400 per month in gross income, while a family of four may earn no more than about $3,000 per month in gross income. If a household meets the gross income limit they must also meet a net income limit (gross income minus deductions like rent, child care, etc.).

If you are uncertain about your income eligibility you may apply to determine whether you are eligible. See below on how to apply.

Are immigrants eligible for SNAP?

In general, immigrants must be “qualified” to be eligible for SNAP. This includes some lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and others.

Undocumented immigrants, a well as those under Deferred Action Childhood Arrival (DACA), are ineligible. But households that are mixed-status (those with citizens/qualified immigrants and undocumented immigrants/DACA) may receive SNAP benefits for eligible household members.

How do people buy food with SNAP?

Those eligible for SNAP will get an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. The EBT card will be loaded monthly with money that can be used to buy food and works just like a credit card. SNAP can only be used to purchase food (no medicine or nonfood items) and can only be used at participating stores.

How has SNAP changed in response to COVID-19?

SNAP has changed in several ways recently. First, every household will receive the maximum monthly benefit amount.

  • Household size of 1 will receive $194 per month
  • Household size of 2 will receive $355 per month
  • Household size of 3 will receive $509 per month
  • Household size of 4 will receive $646 per month

Second, adults without dependents will be able to receive SNAP longer without having to be employed (prior to now this was more limited). Finally, SNAP need only be renewed, or reapplied for, every 12 months.

What else needs to be done around SNAP?

There is more Nebraska can do to maximize the effectiveness of SNAP and to help ensure that individuals and families who need SNAP can access the program. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, Congress recently passed legislation that allows states to provide SNAP to kids who are on the free and reduced-price lunch program while their schools are closed. This option, called Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) will make sure that kids and their families have food security while they learn from home.

Nebraska has not taken up this option yet. You can call Governor Ricketts’ office at (402) 471-2244 and ask that the state provide Pandemic-EBT to kids and families during this time.

How do people apply for SNAP?

To apply for SNAP you can file an application online through ACCESSNebraska (English); (Espanol). It may take up to 30 days to get SNAP benefits unless you are facing a food crisis (which can mean getting benefits faster).

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