4 Ways To Increase Your Monthly Food Stamp Amount
Did you know that roughly 95% of participants in the food stamp program are not receiving their full amount of benefits?
If you are here, there is a good chance you too are being shortchanged on food stamps!
While it’s unfortunate that you could be missing out on a portion of government resources that you are entitled to, the good news is this article will provide you with 4 easy steps to potentially increase your monthly amount of food stamps.
Before getting into the steps needed to increase your monthly food stamp amounts, let’s discuss the program in more detail.
What Is The Food Stamp Program?
Most people refer to this benefit as food stamps, although the official government name is SNAP. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The SNAP program provides families with specific dollar amounts each month that allows low-income individuals or families to purchase food.
Those in the SNAP program use an EBT Card (Electronic Benefits Transfer) to purchase food at grocery stores and restaurants.
If you are in Houston and need to apply for food stamps see this article.
Should you live outside of Houston, use this link to enroll in the SNAP program.
Now that the basics of food stamps are out of the way lets move into the things you can do to increase your monthly benefits.
4 Steps To Increase Your Monthly Food Stamp Amount
To give yourself the best chance of obtaining the maximum monthly food stamp benefit that you are entitled to you must know these four steps.
- Know the Food Stamp Algorithm
- Know your household size
- Use EVERY deduction available to you
- Contact SNAP if you need to recalculate your benefits
The case managers at your local food stamp office are trained to screen for all of these things but don’t simply depend on them to get things right. Some case managers are more knowledgable than others, which is why you should have a basic understanding of the process.
1. Know the Food Stamp Algorithm
You can’t win the game if you don’t know the rules.
In the game of “getting the maximum amount of monthly food stamps,” the rules are determined by the Food Stamp Algorithm.
The Food Stamp Algorithm is a set of guidelines which determines how much money you will receive in SNAP benefits each month.
The algorithm works like this:
Here is the break down of all that above.
Gross income – Deductions = Net income
Your gross income is the money you make before taxes and insurance is taken out.
The deductions are things like medical expenses, housing, rent, child and other things the food stamp office counts as your deductions.
Later in this article, I will provide you with a list of deductions that the food stamp office allows you to use.
Your deductions are subtracted from the gross income and this determines your net income.
Net income X .30 = Family Contribution
At this point, you must multiply your net income by .30 or 30%. The food stamp office is having you to pay for at least 30% of your cost of food.
Once you multiply your net income by .30 you will get your Family Contribution (FC). Again this is the amount they think is fair for you to contribute toward the cost of food.
Maximum payout – Family Contribution = Your monthly food stamp payment
Depending on how many people live in your household determines your maximum payout. The more people in the household the higher the maximum payout.
Below is an example of maximum monthly payouts for food stamps:
- 1 in household = $192 max
- 2 in household = $353 max
- 3 in household = $505 max
- 4 in household = $642 max
- 5 in household = $762 max
- 6 in household = $914 max
- 7 in household = $1,011 max
- 8 in household = $1,155 max
- Each additional person past = $144
Take your Family Contribution and subtract it from your maximum payout for your household size. What’s leftover from this is your monthly food stamp payment.
2. Know Your Household Size – Do not skip this section!
In the previous section, you learned what the maximum monthly food stamp payments were for your household size. Now I want to show you how to determine who is in your household.
You would think that anyone who lives in your home is considered part of your household, but this is not necessarily the case. To count as someone to include in your household (for food stamp purposes ) BOTH of the following must be true:
- The individual must live in the same home. AND…
- You must share and prepare food with them.
Again both of these must be true to consider someone as part of your household.
Here are two scenarios to help you better understand how you determine the members of your household.
Scenario 1: Family of 4 with husband, wife and two kids
This family all lives under the same roof, which satisfies the first requirement.
They also share and prepare all their food together which satisfies the second requirement. When the wife cooks a meal she cooks it for herself, husband and two kids. The husband spends the money he makes on food for his wife and two children. This again is an example of a family that shares and prepares food together.
Scenario 2: Two college roommates
I’ll use an example from my own past for this scenario.
During my days at Texas Southern University, I shared a house with my cousin. We both lived under the same roof which satisfied the first requirement.
As for sharing and preparing food, we bought our own groceries (rather Jack in the Box tacos because we were broke). My cousin was not responsible for my food, nor was I for his. We lived in the same household, but we did not share and prepare meals together. Had I applied for food stamps back then, I would not have listed my cousin as a part of my household.
Why it’s important to know your household size for food stamps
Your food stamp office factors the gross income of everyone you list as a member of your household.
In my example, had I listed my cousin as a household member I would have received a much lower amount of food stamps because they would’ve taken into account the income he was making at his job. We weren’t sharing food, so he didn’t need to be listed as a household member.
Here are other examples of people who may live in the same house, but don’t need to be listed as a household member.
- A roommate
- Your girlfriend/boyfriend. From the things I’ve read the food stamp offices looks at this relationship the same way they do a roommate. Now, if the girlfriend gets pregnant and has a child things change. The parent of your child, even if unmarried, is viewed the same way as a spouse and would need to be listed as part of your household.
- An uncle who is unemployed but living with you
- A cousin living with you to attend college
- Someone who you rented a room to on Craigslist
- Children who live with you who are older than 22
- A caregiver who takes care of a senior
These are just a few examples, but the bottom line, if you do not share and prepare food together with the individual they do not need to be listed as part of your household.
Who should and shouldn’t be considered apart of your household income can be confusing, so be sure to ask your food stamp case manager about any unique living situations you may have.
3. Use EVERY deduction available to you
Knowing what deductions you can claim is important if you want to get the maximum monthly food stamp benefit.
A deduction is an expense (like housing, childcare, etc) that lowers your gross income. Potentially the more deductions you receive the more money you get in monthly food stamp benefits.
Next, I will list some of the deductions that could be available to you.
Note: The screenshots used in this section were taken from the Texas SNAP application.
20% Deduction from earned income
You receive a 20% eduction on all of your earned income. Earned income is your wages from a job that you work. This does not include interest, dividends, child support, pensions. All of those are examples of unearned income.
This deduction is a work incentive that favors individuals that are currently working.
Standard Deduction for Food Stamps
Your standard deduction depends on your household size. Below are the deductions per household size:
1 in household = $164 standard deduction
2 in household = $164 standard deduction
3 in household = $164 standard deduction
4 in household = $174 standard deduction
5 in household = $174 standard deduction
6 in household = $174 standard deduction
This deduction is automatically given to you, so you don’t have to claim it.
Housing Cost Deductions
Claiming housing cost deductions is another way to increase your monthly food stamp benefits.
This section may seem tedidous, but if you leave this section blank you are likely leaving food stamp benefits on the table.
The following housing expenses can be counted as deductions:
- Rent and mortgage
- Utility costs. This includes heating and cooling your home
- Water bill
- Taxes on your home
- Home repair costs due to a natural disaster (Hurricane Harvey, Tax Day Floods, etc)
- Cell phone bills
Note: See Section A – 1429 Shelter Costs for more housing deductions. This is for Texas residents although if you are in another city the deductions are likely similar.
Note: If you are homeless, you may be able to take advantage of a Homeless Shelter Deduction. If you can show proof of expenses of things like motels or rent paid to friends you could receive more food stamps.
Cost To Support Others Deductions
You can claim not only the costs of daycare but transportation costs to get your child to daycare. As long as the childcare is used to give you time to work, go to school or seek either, you can use this deduction.
If you are paying child support through the courts you are entitled to a deduction. Anyone currently receiving food stamps, who didn’t list their payments on the application should definitely consider recalculating their benefits.
Note: Alimony is not deductible.
Caring For Adults w Disabilities
If you are paying to take care of an adult with disabilties you should also list this in Section P of the application.
Medical Cost Deductions
This section is for individuals who are 60 and older or who have a disability.
The following qualify as disabled:
- Receives SSI benefits
- A disabled veteran
- Receives disability retirement
- Railroad retirement disability
SNAP allows deductions for the following medical expenses:
- Medical care provided by a qualified health professional
- Dental care
- Rehabilitation care
- Outpatient treatment
- Nursing care
- Diapers for children with disabilities
- Hearing aids
There are lots more deductions found in this link. See Section A – 1428.1 Allowable Medical Expenses for the complete list. If you see anything on this list complete Section Q of the food stamp application to increase your monthly benefits.
4. Contact Your Food Stamp Office To Have Your Benefits Recalculated
You can have your food stamps recalculated anytime there is a change in income.
If you submitted your application and didn’t list some of the deductions from above you should have your benefits recalculated. All you need to do is contact your state’s Health and Human Services Department or stop by a local office.
Lots of people wait until the next year’s recertification period to report changes. Don’t do this. Have your benefits recalculated as soon as possible!
Other Things To Consider
- Your food stamps are calculated based on the month that you apply for benefits. If there is a month that you get paid 3 times in the month they will count this amount as your regular income although this won’t happen again for the year. Consider applying in a month where you only get paid twice per month to ensure you get the maximum benefit.
- If your income is above the gross income limit and you are disabled you may only get the minimum amount; typically $15 per month. You qualify for food stamps based on your disability, but your disability income is above the gross income which is why you only receive $15 per month.
- If you have questions about your food stamps try visiting the office for answers. You can try getting an answer by phone, but the first person you speak to at these offices may not be the best source of information. Your case manager at the office can provide you with the most accurate information.
I created this article because of the countless number of clients who question why they are receiving only $15 a month for food stamps. While everyone’s situation is different the criteria for calculating monthly food stamp amounts is the same.
To give yourself the best chance to receive the maximum monthly amount of food stamps it is important to know the rules.
Understanding the Food Stamp Algorithm, who is in your “household”, what deductions you qualify for and how to recalculate your benefits can help to increase your amount of monthly food stamps.
For anyone in Houston who has questions about any of this, you can contact Texas Health and Human Services at 877.541.7905. If you need to find a Houston food stamp office you can find one here.
If you live in another state you can find a link to your state’s Health and Human Service Department here.
Nick Bryant is the author of Understanding Healthcare Is Half The Battle and a Senior Counselor with 13+ years of experience working in community health and mental health. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching WWE on Friday nights, and working toward a Google Data Analytics certification. If you have additional questions about community resources or government assistance programs, simply leave a comment below and he will follow up as soon as possible.
16 thoughts on “4 Steps To Increase Your Monthly Food Stamp Benefits”
But I have a question, do I have to report the $600.00 PUA benefits in addition to the 152 I get for unemployment weekly.
Also I read that during the months of FEB March and April you are supposed to get an additional 302 per child Is that true. My case worker is giving me a hard time
Hi Lydia, sorry your case worker is being difficult, I know the types!
I will however say the questions about the PUA income and additional amounts are probably best answered by your case manager. If you do not trust their info consider calling Texas Health and Human Services (877.541.7905) to get a general understanding or maybe even Houston Food Bank at 832.369.9390. You can definitely get on the phone faster by calling the Food Bank to see if they understand how PUA effects the snap application.
I will say that I’ve heard families are receiving the max benefit according to household size.
Hope that helps, God bless you and your family!
hey my name is larry and i stay in milwaukee.wi and i was getting like 162 foodstamp every month but when i did my renew on the phone i said i pay 300 for rent every month but no gas or electricity but i really do pay both i think i did something wrong cause now im getting 40 dollars every month what should i do like asap please help me
Hi Larry hope all is well my man.
I’m not sure what the exact reason is why your stamps got reduced, but it’s likely due to a change in income that you reported or the person who interviewed you may be misunderstood and entered the wrong information.
If you reported that you paid gas and electric last year, but this year they have you not paying for gas or electric that could be the issue. They are looking at your monthly income and comparing that to monthly expenses to see what a fair monthly food stamp amount might be.
If your income is still the same but you reported that you pay less in monthly expenses that could be the reason your stamps were reduced.
Consider calling the health dept back in Wisconsin to learn exactly what monthly income and monthly expenses they have listed for you. Their numbers may be different from what you actually pay.
I received paperwork for a new simplified program for people who receive social security benefits. I only receive 1002.00 per month and my husband who is 63 only gets 256.00 he took early retirement because he had a stroke and can’t work anymore. The said he has enough work credits for disability but that they are not in concurrent years. If you have more than enough I don’t get y you can’t get your money. Anyway, early retirement was only option. So cut his retirement in half. Then child support cut that in half. We’ve been denied over and over for food stamps and our bills actually exceed our income right now. What can we do? It’s like a lose lose situation.
Hi Paulaetta sorry to hear about those circumstances. Two suggestions:
1. Use the food stamp calculator to see if you qualify for food stamps and how much. Remember to add your deductions which include things like your gas bill your water bill rent utilities and I believe child support is even a deduction that you can list. Each of these things help to lower your gross income to help you qualify for food stamps.
2. File a complaint with the Ombudsman office in your state. They handle complaints about the food stamp program and Medicaid program. It’s no guarantee that they can help with your situation but they are a last resort option if somebody is not satisfied with the assistance that they are getting at a food stamp or Medicaid office. Simply Google ombudsman’s office in your state to find out who you need to call. Or just let me know your state and I will send you the link for your states ombudsman.
We pay our house payment, insurance and taxes in one payment. Would it be better to separate them? I did not know if there would be a difference since the payment would still be the same. Why don’t they raise their base limit that you cannot go over $200.00 or $300.00 that way maybe if they had food stamps they could pay on their bills and not worry about losing everything. With all the prices going up it is hard to stay afloat. We cannot buy near as much food for the price it was before. We are not at that point of losing everything but if something doesn’t give we will be. It would of been nice if we would of got the stimulus check. We are slowly filling our credit cards up with groceries and some bills. It is getting harder to keep up with everything and all my medical bills. I see 6 doctors a month at $40.00 each time except for 1 an that is my family doctor and I do not pay anything. Food Stamps would help a lot. We are on Social Security Disability. My husband and son are legally blind. Help please. Could you let me know by email.
I think they only care about the amount you pay whether its combined or separated. Definitely talk to someone w the food stamp office in your state to confirm this though.
If you have not applied for food stamps use this food stamp calculator to see if your household might qualify and how much you could receive. It’s not an official tool bu tyou can use it to determine if its worth it to apply.
Totally understand the strain you are in, this inflation is out of control. One suggestion might be to find food pantries in your area. This can supplement the current supply you have. A website called Feeding American can help you find food pantries in your zip code.
Hi! I live in San Antonio. I have 3 kids, one being a college student taking 9 hours per semester and working part-time. They said that he is not considered part of my household because he doesn’t meet the qualifications as a student. What does that mean and how can I get him back on my case to qualify for an increase? Thanks in advance for your help.
Hi Autumn, check out this link that talks about how college students can qualify for food stamps. I know that whether or not a student is full or part-time does make a difference.
Also check out this the food stamp calculator to plug in your information to see if your household is entilted to food stamps and if so how much. Its simple to use just enter your household size, montly income and dedcutions like gas and water bills to see what you “should” receive in monthly snap benefits.
Thank you for the much needed information. My son was homeless for a bit & he applied for foodstamps. His caseworker added what he was paying for his hotel as income & only allotted him him like 75 a month in stamps. She flat out refused to deduct the 300 a week he was having to pay. AND this was during the pandemic! I had him list me as his authorized representative so I could talk with his caseworker & believe me by the time I was through dealing with her I wanted to punch someone. When that happens I just leave the local workers alone & go straight to my Ombudsman. Needless to say my son began getting the full amount he was due. If anyone ever has a problem they simply cannot get resolved with their local HHS office you can fill out an online complaint form with the Texas Ombudsmans office & they will get back with you the same day & they will work on your behalf to get the problem resolved. I don’t play with these people & they now know that fact. If i can’t get my desired results I file a complaint & get it resolved.
This is great information Kriste! I’m vaguely familiar with the ombudsman so I did not know that they could help in situations like this. Again thank you so much for sharing I’m going to make a section in the e-mail to let others know about this information. Thank you again for sharing!
Thank you so much Nick, this is a super helpful article! I am helping a disabled vet friend to maximize his food assistance. I think it will help him increase his food assistance benefits which he really needs. It was very nice of you to share this info.
Thank you for the kind words Lisa! Yeah list every deduction they have because that will lower the net income which matters.
hello live in Pa.single person never got the max, in snap on sis. when I try get hard way too go.
Hi Rosaaline, check out the Pennsylvania food stamp calculator. This will let you know what the max food stamp benefit you can receive. When applying for food stamps your monthly income is important but so are deductions. Make sure you add dedcuctions like gas and water bill, medications, etc.