Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions of low-income Americans put food on the table, providing benefits that are timely, targeted, and temporary. SNAP responds quickly to changes in need, growing in response to increases in poverty and unemployment and shrinking as need abates. The program is targeted at our most vulnerable citizens, predominantly serving households with children, elderly, and disabled members. SNAP benefits provide a strong work incentive, phasing out as participants get back on their feet but not by the full additional dollar earned.   

How SNAP Works

SNAP works to improve the nutritional status and well-being of America’s most vulnerable. SNAP benefits are delivered monthly through electronic debit (EBT) cards that can be used to purchase groceries at over 238,000 authorized retailers nationwide. Nearly half of all SNAP participants are children, and 82 percent of all SNAP benefits go to vulnerable houses that include a child, elderly person, or disabled person.

Federal eligibility for SNAP is limited to those with gross incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty line. Participants must further show a net income of less than or equal to 100 percent of the poverty line and are subject to an asset test. Able-bodied adults without dependents may only receive three months of benefits during any three year period if they are not working a minimum of 20 hours per week or participating in a training program.

The SNAP program is administered by the states which have considerable discretion to adapt the program to best meet the needs of their residents. At the same time, federal oversight ensures that SNAP is accountable to the taxpayer and that benefits are administered accurately. SNAP has low administrative overhead and one of the highest payment accuracy rates of any federal government program.

Additional Resources

SNAP Website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap