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Food Assistance: Helping Families Have Enough to Eat

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

The goal of the Food Assistance Program is to help you put more food on your table. The program is designed for you and your family to eat better when you don’t have a lot of money to spend. Here are some basic facts on food assistance in Iowa. Please read them carefully to see if you can get food assistance. Know what to bring with you when you apply for food assistance. If you have questions, please call your Department of Human Services (DHS) office. They can help. You can apply online at: https://dhs.iowa.gov/how-to-apply.   

The Food Assistance Program is now called SNAP, but many still refer to these benefits as Food Stamps. 

Facts about SNAP

  • You can work and still get food assistance. 
  • You can own a house and a car and still get food assistance.
  • You can be getting social security, supplemental security income (SSI), unemployment, or welfare and still get food assistance.
  • You don’t have to live with children to get food assistance.

SNAP benefits come on an EBT card that you can use at the store to buy food.  You may use your EBT Card at most grocery stores, supermarkets, food co-ops, and farmers’ markets.

How Do I Know If I Qualify for SNAP?

Unless you get SSI or FIP benefits, you need to show that you are under income and resource limit to qualify for SNAP:

Resources are things you own like your home and car as well as cash you have in the bank, stocks, or U.S. savings bonds.  Not all of your resources will be counted.  To get food assistance the value of your counted resources must not be more than:

  • $2,250 for most households;
  • $3,250 for households of one or more if at least one person is 60 years or older, or has a disability.

Income is considered on two levels, both of which are based on the federal poverty levels. The first test looks at gross income. Households who have a member 60 or older, or a member with a disability, do not have a gross income limit. Other households must meet the gross income limit.  Those limits are adjusted every year. If the household meets the gross income limit, then any applicable deductions are applied, and a net income test is applied.  For households with a member 60 or older or with a disability, only the net income limit applies.

2020 gross and net income limits:

Household Size           Maximum Gross Monthly Income     Maximum Net Monthly Income

1                                  $1,354                                                 $1,041

2                                  $1,832                                                 $1,410

3                                  $2,311                                                 $1,778

4                                  $2,790                                                 $2,146

5                                  $3,269                                                 $2,515

6                                  $3,748                                                 $2,883

7                                  $4,227                                                 $3,251

8                                  $4,705                                                 $3,620

Benefit levels will depend on the household’s net income and household size.  The more people in the household and the lower the household income the larger the amount of food assistance. The maximum benefit for the poorest households is $357 a month for a household of two. It is $649 a month for a household of four. (These benefit levels apply October 2015).

DHS will need certain information to process your application:

  • I.D. showing your name and address.
  • Proof of social security number (or proof that you have applied for a social security number) for all household members.
  • Proof of your monthly earnings, such as recent pay stubs.
  • Copy of check or benefit statement from social security, pensions, SSI, or other unearned income.
  • If not a U.S. citizen, proof of legal alien status.
  • Medical bills of household members sixty years or older and have a disability, if these bills are not paid by insurance or Medicaid or Medicare.
  • Bankbook or current bank statement, if you have one.
  • Receipts for child care costs.
  • Utility and rent bills (or proof of mortgage and property tax payments, if you own your home.)

You may also be required to verify other information about your household status.

What If My Application is Denied?

If you think you should be getting food assistance and did not get it, or the amount of assistance seems less than you think it should be, contact your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office.  You should ask for a hearing.  You can request a hearing verbally or write and ask for a hearing. You should also contact Iowa Legal Aid at 1-800-532-1275.

Last Review and Update: Apr 09, 2020
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