What Is EBT Cash – Benefits and How Can You Apply

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What Is EBT Cash – Benefits and How Can You Apply

Many low-income American families who require government financial assistance are familiar with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps. However, the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Cash program is a better option if you want government funds that can be used for various living expenses.

What is EBT cash? How can you qualify and apply for it? And how much can you receive in benefits? We will answer these and more questions in this quick guide.

What Is EBT Cash?

The EBT Cash program is a federal government assistance program for low- or no-income families with dependent children. The program helps eligible families gain financial footing while searching for work.

Qualifying low-income families usually get EBT Cash through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), states receive block grants from the federal government to fund the program.

Beneficiaries receive monthly cash payments through an EBT Cash benefits card. If you receive TANF funds, you can use the card to withdraw cash from ATMs or pay for purchases online and in stores where EBT is accepted.

Like SNAP, families must meet some strict eligibility requirements to receive EBT cash assistance. While TANF is a federal program, each state has specific eligibility requirements.

How Much Can You Receive?

Having answered the question, “what is EBT cash?” the next logical question for most people would be, “how much dollars can you receive in benefits?”

As mentioned, EBT cash or TANF varies between states. In any case, the dollar amount you can receive will depend on your family’s size, current employment status, and how much money you earn (if you are employed).

For example, if you are a family of four living in Texas, you can expect a maximum of $226 per month (for a single parent or caretaker with three dependent children) or $231 per month (for two parents or caretakers with two dependent children).

Keep in mind that if you apply for EBT cash benefits and start working afterward, TANF will deduct a certain percentage of your reported income from the amount you receive.

Contact your state’s TANF office for details on the maximum cash assistance you can expect per month and possible deductions that may apply if you are underemployed.

Is SNAP Different From the EBT Cash Benefits Program?

The SNAP and EBT Cash programs are federal government assistance programs for eligible low-income American families. However, the programs are not the same, and the funds are meant for different purposes.

On the one hand, SNAP funds generally cover food item costs, such as purchasing approved food items, seeds, non-alcoholic beverages, and certain ingredients to prepare meals at home.

On the other hand, you can use your monthly TANF or EBT cash payments for a wide range of needs like utilities, clothing, transportation, furniture, supplies for the home, and other basic needs.

Also, if you qualify for EBT cash assistance and participate in the TANF work program, you can get support with typical expenses associated with getting and keeping a job, such as:

  • Relocation expenses
  • Transportation
  • Vehicle repair
  • Educational expenses
  • Work clothing, equipment, and tools

The good news is that SNAP and TANF are completely different programs, meaning you can qualify and receive payment from both programs simultaneously.

We invite you to read our detailed guide if you want to learn more about SNAP benefits and how to qualify.

For How Long Can You Receive EBT Cash Benefits?

Like SNAP beneficiaries, TANF recipients must remain eligible to continue receiving cash assistance. However, while SNAP participants can recertify annually, eligible TANF recipients will generally receive EBT cash payments for a maximum of 5 years (60 months).

In some cases, individual states may decide to keep paying benefits beyond the 5-year limit for families who experience severe hardship. However, this exception is usually extended to a limited number of cases.

Who Qualifies for EBT Cash Benefits?

Needy and low income families with children who are not older than 18 years may qualify for EBT or TANF cash assistance. However, federal law does not define what “needy” is, so each state makes its policies regarding eligibility.

Having said that, the TANF benefits program is specifically designed to provide cash assistance to families with little to no money or who have no means of getting any money.

This means you must be unemployed or underemployed with a very low income based on your state’s cost of living. Pregnant women who have a hard time getting by can also qualify for EBT cash benefits, even if they have no other children.

To be eligible for EBT cash benefits, you must be a US citizen or legal alien and a resident of the state where you are applying for cash assistance.

Additionally, you may qualify for the program if you are 18 years or younger and take responsibility as the head of your household.

Depending on the state, a child may qualify for EBT cash assistance if they live with their grandparent, regardless of whether the adult’s income is higher than the state’s TANF income limit.

How to Apply for EBT Cash Benefits

Like other state-administered government assistance programs, the EBT cash benefits application process will vary depending on where you live.

Generally, the quickest way to get TANF benefits is to apply online. You can do this by visiting the Office of Family Assistance website for your state’s contact information, including the physical address, phone number, and your state’s TANF web address.

Alternatively, you can apply for EBT cash benefits by contacting your state’s Department of Social Services.

Before applying for EBT cash benefits, it is usually best to call your state’s TANF program office to know the specific requirements and documents to submit with your application.

In most states, you will be required to provide identification and eligibility documents, such as a government-issued ID card, housing, employment, and income information, as well as the number of dependents you have.

EBT Cash Assistance Program Rules for Participants

EBT cash benefits are generally temporary cash assistance to help financially struggling families achieve self-sufficiency. You will stop getting this public assistance once your income exceeds your state’s poverty line.

In the meantime, if you qualify for the cash benefit assistance program, you must adhere to the program rules. Depending on your state, the rules may include the following:

  • Participate in the TANF work program
  • You must show that you are actively looking for work or training for a job to improve your finances
  • You must not quit your job
  • You must not be involved in substance abuse (such as drugs or alcohol)
  • Live in an approved living situation if you are a parenting teen
  • Cooperate with your state’s Department of Child Support
  • Ensure your child is vaccinated
  • Enroll in parenting skills classes

Bottom Line

What is EBT cash assistance, and who can qualify for it? Now you know. Reach out to your state’s TANF program representative if you have children 18 years or younger and have little to no income.

Your state may be able to help you access funds for various basic needs while you continue searching for a means to improve your financial status.