Virginia participates in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a government-run program that helps low-income families buy food. Recipients must note, however, that allotted money is meant to supplement a food budget, not to serve as the primary source. While the program has established basic income guidelines, some exceptions can apply. In Virginia, the state Department of Social Services oversees the program, and anyone who wants to apply or has questions should contact their local office.
How to Determine Eligibility for SNAP Benefits
Financial eligibility for SNAP is determined based on the household’s size, income and resources. Households are defined as a person living alone or a group of people living together who buy and prepare their meals together. They generally must meet two income requirements tests to qualify for SNAP: a gross income test and a net income test. Gross income is the household’s total income before deductions, and the net income is the household’s total income after allowable deductions are made.
Households with an elderly or disabled person, however, must only meet the net income limit. Moreover, certain people will automatically qualify for nutrition assistance without regard to net or gross income. This includes households in which all or at least one person receives GR (general relief) benefits, TANF (temporary assistance for needy families) benefits or SSI (supplemental security income).
Income Types Considered for SNAP Eligibility
When determining income for gross income limits, the program counts both earned income in the form of wages and salaries and unearned income. Unearned income includes, but is not limited to, government assistance payments such as TANF, SSI or GR; annuities; pensions; workers' compensation; and alimony.
Examples of excluded income include, but are not limited to, payments made by the Virginia Division of Child Support Enforcement to TANF families, earnings of minors who are in high school, lump sum payments such as tax credits or inheritances, loans and reimbursement for job-related expenses.
Gross Income Limits in Virginia
With the exception of categorically eligible households and households containing anyone disabled or older than 60, SNAP has set maximum gross income limits based on household size. Gross income, before allowable deductions, is the home’s total, nonexcludable income. As of March 2019, a household of one cannot have a gross monthly income exceeding $1,316. For households of more people, the gross monthly income limit increases by $468 for each additional person.
Net Income Limits in Virginia
Once a family has met eligibility requirements based on gross income, they must still meet net income requirements unless categorically eligible. The program allows for certain deductions to determine net income, including:
- A deduction of 20 percent from earned income.
- A standard deduction of $164 to $174, depending on the size of the household.
- A dependent care deduction, if needed for work, training or education.
- Medical expenses for elderly or disabled family members that are more than $35 a month if they are not paid by insurance or someone else.
- Child support payments paid by a household member to an individual or agency outside of the household.
- If all household members are homeless, a standard shelter of $143 is allowable for incurred or estimated shelter expenses.
- A portion of the monthly costs of shelter, excluding food, may be deductible.
A household of one must not have a net income exceeding $1,012. For households with more than one person, the limit increases by $360 for every additional person.
Deduction Verification Must Be Made Within Thirty Days
In certain instances, the Virginia Department of Social Services will require the household to provide proof of a deduction. If the household cannot provide proof within 30 days, the agency will have to proceed with determining eligibility excluding that expense. If absence of this verifiable expense makes the family ineligible, it will have an additional 30 days to verify.
Sally Brooks is a writer living in New York City with her chunky toddler and patient husband. She graduated magna cum laude from the University Cincinnati College of Law and her work has been featured in Jurist and the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.