Authored By: Virginia Poverty Law Center
How does income affect my eligibility for food stamps?
Food stamps help you buy food for your family. The amount that you receive is based on the number of people you have to feed and the money available to buy food. As your income goes up, you generally receive less food stamps. When your income goes down, you could receive more food stamps. Your food stamp eligibility worker must take into account income received during the application process and future income that you are reasonably certain to receive.
What is the difference between gross income and net income?
Gross income is the total amount of income before any money is taken out for taxes, health insurance, union dues, etc. Net income is the amount of money that you receive after all deductions are withheld.
What is countable income?
Your food stamp eligibility worker will determine your household countable food stamp income. She can make deductions for things like child care expense, child support that you pay, out-of-pocket medical expenses, high shelter expenses, etc. Your food stamp allotment will be based on the countable income for your household.
What is the difference between earned and unearned income? Is all income counted in the same way?
No, all income is not counted in the same way. Your worker must determine if your income is earned or unearned. Earned income is money that you receive as payment for work or from self-employment. Unearned income is money that you receive that is not direct payment for work being done. Unearned income includes child support, alimony, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, General Relief, Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Compensation, Workers Compensation, Veterans Benefits, Railroad Retirement Benefits or perhaps a pension from your former employer, etc.
A portion of your income is not counted. This is called the income disregard. The amount that is not counted is based on whether the income is earned or unearned.
To determine how much of your income is counted, your worker will request something to prove how much you receive. This verification of your income could be your pay stubs, a statement from your employer, a child support order or a statement from Social Security, etc. Because benefits are paid on a monthly basis, your average monthly income is determined.
How much of my income is counted?
You can receive various deductions based on your situation. Here are some examples:
Standard Deduction- All food stamp households receive a standard income deduction. Households with 1-3 members receive a standard income deduction of $134, households with 4 members receive a $143 standard income deduction, 5 member households receive a $167 standard income deduction, and households with 6 or more members receive a $191 standard income deduction. The standard income deduction applies to both earned and unearned income.
Earned Income? All earned income receives an additional twenty percent reduction. For example, if your gross monthly earnings from work are $1,000, $200 of these earnings is deducted. This is called the Earned Income Deduction. If you are self-employed, your worker will count the amount of the profit you earn from doing business and then she will apply the twenty percent reduction.
Day Care- If you pay someone for day care for any household member, up to $200 per month can be deducted for each child under the age of two. Up to $175 per month can be deducted for any other household member receiving dependent care.
Shelter Expenses- If you have high household shelter expenses, you may receive an additional deduction. The deduction is based on the number of people in the household, the household income and the necessary shelter expenses. Shelter expenses includes rent, mortgage or loan payments, real estate taxes, personal property taxes on a mobile home, insurance premiums for your home, utilities, the repair costs related to a household disaster (if the repairs are not paid by insurance or public relief organizations), and utility installation fees or deposits. The maximum income deduction for shelter expenses is $431 unless someone in your household is disabled or at least sixty years old. You will be required to report any change in your monthly shelter expenses to receive this extra deduction. The shelter deduction is done after all other deductions.
Medical Expenses- People who are over age 60 or people who are disabled (as determined by Social Security, Railroad Retirement, Veterans Administration, etc.) may receive an additional income deduction if the medical expenses that they have to pay (the expenses that are not covered by health insurance) are unusually high. Allowable medical expenses include prescription costs, dental care, health insurance premiums, dentures, hearing aids, and home health care costs, etc. If you have monthly medical expenses that are more than $35, you can receive an additional deduction from your income. The additional deduction is the amount of the expense that exceeds $35. For example, if your monthly medical expenses are $50 per month, you will receive an additional deduction of $15 ($50 - $35 = $15). Remember that this is only for people who are disabled or at least sixty years old.
Child Support Paid to Others- Child Support payments paid by a food stamp household member to someone outside household is deducted from your household income. This may include the cost of health insurance. These expenses must be verified before the deduction is allowed.
Homeless Shelter Allowance- $143 may be deducted from your household income if you are homeless. To receive this income deduction, you must expect to have shelter costs at some time during the month.
How can you know if your income is too high to receive food stamps?
Without filing an application, you cannot be sure. However, The Virginia Department of Social Services has a web site with a food stamp "Eligibility Checker". By answering a few questions, you can find out if you might be eligible for food stamp benefits. This is not a guarantee that you can receive benefits and it DOES NOT take the place of an application.
To use the Food Stamp Eligibility Checker, go to http://www.dss.state.va.us/benefit/foodstamp
What is the Income Eligibility Limit for Food Stamps?
When you file an application, your worker will do an income screening. If your countable household income is more than the Income Eligibility Limit, your application will be denied. However, you are always encouraged to file an application to be sure.
The Income Eligibility Limit chart shown here is for families who do not have a household member over the age of sixty or a disabled member. Compare GROSS monthly income to the figures below:
Household Size Gross Income Maximum
For each additional household member, add an additional $377.
The Income Eligibility Limit chart shown below is for families who do have a household member over the age of sixty or a disabled member. The household's NET income (after all allowable income deductions) is compared to the figures below. Because the calculation to determine the household's net countable income is complicated, you are always encouraged to file an application rather than assume that you are not eligible. Only use these figures as a guideline.
Household Net Monthly Income Maximum
8 $2881For each additional household member, add an additional $290.