The unemployment insurance benefits overseen by the US Department of Labor can be a lifesaver if you have lost your job. A 2017 study found that unemployment benefits tend to positively affect recipients’ health, leading to fewer reports of poor health, at least in the year following job loss.
If you are unemployed and hoping to make the most of government assistance, you may have considered enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. But you might wonder, “Can I get food stamps while on unemployment? If so, what are the eligibility rules, and how can I apply?”
This quick guide will help you understand how unemployed people may qualify for and receive food stamps.
Can I Get Food Stamps While on Unemployment?
You can get food stamps if you have lost your job and are currently receiving unemployment benefits. While unemployment benefits can reduce the stress associated with losing your job, the amount you get in benefits is lower than your earned income at your job.
In other words, you may still require help purchasing groceries for your family, even though you receive unemployment insurance benefits.
That said, there are certain requirements unemployed people must meet to qualify for SNAP.
Understanding SNAP Rules for the Unemployed
Losing your job doesn’t automatically qualify you for SNAP benefits, just like not everyone who receives unemployment benefits can get food stamps.
First, you must meet the SNAP eligibility requirements to get benefits, whether or not you are employed. Secondly, you must not leave your job or reduce your hours just to qualify for food stamps. For this reason, you may be required to provide evidence that you lost your job for no fault of yours.
That said, you don’t need to be employed to get food stamps if you are one of the following:
- Elderly (age 60 or more)
- Care for a child under 18 years old
An individual between 18 and 49 years old with no disabilities and not providing for any child is considered an able-bodied adult without dependents (ABAWD).
If you are an unemployed ABAWD, you may get food stamps for only three months every three years (known as the ABAWD time limit) unless you meet certain work requirements.
Unemployed individuals who want to receive SNAP benefits beyond the ABAWD time limit must do one of the following:
- Put in a minimum of 80 hours of work a month (you can work as a volunteer, do unpaid work, or work for pay or something other than money).
- Put in at least 80 hours of work a month in SNAP Employment and Training program or any other local, state, or federal work program.
- Participate in workfare for the assigned number of hours monthly, depending on the dollar amount you receive in food stamps.
The ABAWD time limit may be waived if you live in an area with more than a 10% unemployment rate.
Note that work training programs aim to help unemployed people receiving government assistance find gainful employment. For this reason, you cannot turn down a job offer by the state while on SNAP. Refusing gainful employment makes you ineligible to receive food stamps.
How Much Income and Assets Can I Have and Still Get Food Stamps?
To qualify for food stamps, your money and property must pass the gross monthly income, net income, and asset test.
SNAP counts all household incomes toward eligibility, including earned and unearned income. Earned income is the money you are paid from jobs (you may not have any earned income if you are unemployed). Unearned income includes unemployment insurance benefits, Social Security, child support, and cash assistance.
Under federal rules, your gross household income (before deductions) must not exceed 130% of the federal poverty line, and your net income must not exceed 100% of the poverty line. However, households with elderly or disabled persons don’t have to meet this income limit.
Your countable assets must not be greater than $2,750. The amount should not exceed $4,250 for households with a disabled or elderly person aged 60 and above.
Keep in mind that income and asset limits may vary between states, so it is best to contact your local SNAP office to know the exact rules regarding how much money and properties you can have and still get food stamps.
Can I Have Savings and Still Get Food Stamps?
You can get food stamps if you have savings, provided the money in your bank does not exceed your state’s SNAP income limit. While any cash you have in the bank counts as assets for SNAP purposes, your most recent tax returns and retirement savings do not count.
How Much Can an Unemployed Person Get In SNAP Benefits?
Monthly SNAP food benefit allotments are based on household size (whether or not you are employed). If your total household income and asset falls within your state’s approved limits, you will receive benefits based on the number of SNAP-eligible people in your household.
The maximum monthly benefits each household can get for the fiscal year 2023 are shown below:
- Household of 1: $281
- Household of 2: $516
- Household of 3: $740
- Household of 4: $939
- Household of 5: $1,116
- Household of 6: $1,339
- Household of 7: $1,480
- Household of 8: $1,691
- Households larger than 8: $211 for each additional person
You can’t get more food stamp benefits if you are pregnant, but you can get more food stamps once your child is born because the baby increases your household size.
In the meantime, if you are pregnant (whether employed or unemployed), you may be eligible to enroll in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits program and get additional benefits.
How to Apply for Food Stamps
If you meet SNAP eligibility requirements, you can apply and get food stamps, even while receiving unemployment benefits.
To apply, fill out your state’s application form on its SNAP benefit website. Remember that SNAP is administered by each state, even though it is a federal program. For this reason, it is important to enroll in the state you live in.
For more details on the application process, read our guide on how to apply for food stamps.
Can I get food stamps while on unemployment? Yes, you can be on unemployment and still qualify for food assistance if your unemployment benefits do not exceed the SNAP benefit income limits in your state.
However, you must continue your search for work while receiving unemployment benefits to keep getting food stamps.