Of course, the first questions that come to most minds when one considers what it’s like to live on SNAP food benefits (known in years past as “food stamps”), are: (1) “How much money can I have coming in and still qualify?”; (2) “How long can I receive SNAP benefits?”; and (3) “How much will SNAP allot me?”
Let’s address those matters one-by-one. Since I live in Texas, let me address these questions within that context.
(1) As to how much income you can have and still qualify for SNAP, the following paragraph (taken from the benefits.gov website) reads:
“In order to qualify for this benefit program, you must be a resident of the state of Texas and fall into one of two groups: (1) those with a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $2,001, or (2) those with a current bank balance (savings and checking combined) under $3,001 who share their household with a person or persons age 60 and over, or with a person with a disability (a child, your spouse, a parent, or yourself). For either group, you must also have an annual household income of less than $14,079 if one person lives in the household; $18,941 if two people live in the household …” (source)
An annual income of $18,941 for a two-person household works out to a weekly wage of $364.25. That would be like one person working a 40-hour per week job at minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) and the other bringing in just under $95 per week by some other means (we’ll say baby-sitting or some such).
Now imagine for a moment what it would be like to have to pay for all of your necessary expenses – and those of another person, as well – with an annual income of less than $18,941. All of your housing, transportation, clothing, etc. Everything. I don’t want to even think of it, but for a great many people, this is the harsh reality of their daily existence. Such folks need help. Period.
(2) As to how long a person can receive SNAP benefits in Texas, the figure varies greatly, being dependent, of course, on a host of factors. Desiring the best possible source for an answer, let me cite the words of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission [HHSC], the department that oversees SNAP.
“SNAP benefits are given to a single person or family who meets the program’s requirements. … Most benefit periods last for 6 months but some can be as short as 1 month or as long as 3 years. For most adults between the ages of 18 and 50 who do not have a child in the home, SNAP benefits are limited to 3 months in a 3-year period. The benefit period can be longer if the adult works at least 20 hours a week or is in a job or training program. Some people may not have to work to get benefits, such as those who have a disability or are pregnant.” (source)
Did you catch that? “For most adults … benefits are limited to 3 months in a 3-year period.” Are you surprised? Perhaps “shocked” is a more accurate word. The common [mis]understanding I encounter on the street today is that the benefits of “food stamps” has no real limits and just goes on-and-on for almost everyone who qualifies. There is no truth whatsoever in such. This observation alone should remind us to investigate matters we hear before we accept them as facts and speak of them as such; critical thinking is required.
(3) Finally, exactly how much in terms of SNAP benefits could a person receive here in Texas? Just for fun, let’s assume the very best possible (albeit, unrealistic) scenario, namely, that given our situation, we would be eligible to receive the absolute maximum possible amount of assistance. Many factors are at play and by no means does everyone receive the maximum possible amount, or even close to it, but for our situation, let’s put ourselves in the best possible position.
The HHSC tells us that for a two person family, the maximum monthly amount that could be awarded is $367 (see the chart to the left). In our situation, that’s the equivalent of one extra week’s income each month … for three months out of three years. Or to break it down, $11.84 per day for two people. That’s $5.92 per person per day.
Let that soak in. The best possible outcome for us is to receive $5.92 per day for a few months over the course of a few years. Now just so we can make it memorable, let’s take that already very optimistic figure and round it up to an even $6.00 per person per day. Stick that figure in your mind and refuse to let go if it. That’s “dream land” for someone seeking to qualify for SNAP in Texas these days … and less than a great many of us not on SNAP pay for a single meal … or even a single cup of coffee … every day. Remember that the next time you pony up for anything to eat or drink, or even discuss where, or what, to eat.
And, of course, the further take away from all of this should be obvious: no one will claw their way out of poverty simply due to the assistance of “food stamps,” much less will they be “living it up on Easy Street.” Remember that the next time you hear someone chipping their teeth about how folks on “food stamps” have it so good and/or that so much money is being wasted on giving people this assistance.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the far more likely dollar amount we’d receive if we did qualify for SNAP benefits. Brace yourself, for our $6.00-a-day figure is about to take a major hit.