There is a lot of ignorance out there when it comes to food stamps or the SNAP program. I even saw one person say that you can buy small items and get change back, so pardon me if some of this information is redundant, but apparently this country is need of some education on the matter. Let's just dispel a few myths today.
- First of all, there is no 'change' with food stamps. SNAP is on a debit card, so the store simply takes what you owe and that's that. And since the most you could have ever possibly gotten back in change anyhow was $.99 cents, is it really worth making yourself look like an ass by bitching about it? This also means that when people apply for emergency benefits, they don't get help immediately. In the past, if you qualified for emergency help, you could get stamps right there and then. Now you wait for the debit card to come in the mail. For those of you who are full of piss and vinegar over people getting food stamps, you'll be happy to know that they still have to either hit a food bank or go hungry while they wait. That should add an extra special layer of frost to your icy heart.
- Qualifying for food stamps also doesn't mean you get the maximum benefit, and this causes a lot of problems and confusion. For instance, a family of four can qualify if their net income is $1963, but that doesn't mean they will get the maximum benefit.So let's say a parent makes $2375 a month. That means they make less than $15 an hour. They have 3 people to take care of and they are within the income guidelines, but they might only get $10 in food stamps, and they most certainly will not qualify for state insurance, which means they either pay a few hundred (on the low end) a month for insurance, or use that money to feed their families. So sometimes, if you want your family to eat, you almost don't want that $.25 raise because it could put you a few cents of the limit.
- This isn't a free pass to buy whatever you want. There is some confusion about the limits of food stamps. You can't buy alcohol, tobacco, already prepared food you could eat in the store (think gas station hot dogs...not gonna happen), and no, not every gift basket is eligible either. The cost of the food has to make up more than 50% of the basket. So that gift basket full of fruit is eligible, but not that teddy bear holding a Hershey's kiss. I understand that some states do allow you to use them for fast few, but this is because some people who receive benefits may not have a stove to cook on, and let's keep in mind that many of those people are mentally ill or veterans who could not find work when they returned home.
- If your bills are bigger than your income, you are screwed. Yes, you read that right. I was once asked to accompany a friend of mine to his interview. He was afraid that they would intimidate him and he would crumble. Once they took his meager income and his bills into consideration the woman said (and no I'm not kidding) "I'm sorry, but your outgoing exceeds your incoming so you don't qualify."
I said "No shit. Why else would he be here?" but that's the way the system works. When I told her I covered his bills when he couldn't, it took his income from negative after bills to zero and he was able to qualify. No, it doesn't make sense but their reasoning is that SNAP is in addition to your existing income and maybe you won't have a home or something if your income at the end of the month is in the negatives? Apparently if you can't pay your rent, you have no need to eat. I'm sure on paper in some other world, that sounds legit.
- The poor can't stick together. Many homeless people lose out on benefits because of a small technicality and so do many families. You have to have an address to qualify for food stamps. Obviously, if you're homeless you don't have an address. So, you're thinking well give them a friends address. Okay, cool, but there is one problem. Two people cannot be on benefits if they share meals. What they will say is "You can't get food stamps at that address because the person living there is already on food stamps." Actually, you can, but they aren't going to share how. You have to create a document that states that you each eat your meals separately. The problem is that they don't tell you this and many people who need help just don't know how to jump through the hoops because they don't even know what the hoops are! The other problem with this is that most of the time poor people tend to be friends, so it isn't likely that you are going to be able to stay with someone who isn't on the system. Sadly, in some cases, they actually hate you if you need help, not realizing that they are just a paycheck or two away from being in the same shoes. What's the solution?
~If you need benefits and your friend is already on benefits, but offers you a place to stay, eat your meals separately and let the state know that's what you do.
~If you are homeless, go to a homeless shelter. Once there, you have a temporary address, but you also go to the top of the waiting list for government housing.