When it comes to payment methods, you will most likely come across many types of cards like debit cards and credit cards. However, a lesser-known form of payment is an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. These cards work similarly to debit and credit cards but are a bit different. If you are not sure what EBT cards are, you should read this article. This is an opportunity that can bring some relief to many people who find it challenging to pay for groceries.
Your Guide to Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards
To help low-income households buy food, the government has a program that provides beneficiaries with EBT cards to use at participating grocery stores. Some federal programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), use cards like this as a part of their electronic system. Since 2004, SNAP payments could only be received and spent using EBT cards. Recipients of the program can use the money loaded onto the card to buy groceries at participating stores (be aware that not all stores accept them).
People have also used EBT cards to get temporary support through programs like Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT). This program was developed to provide extra assistance to people during the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been states that have gotten approval to run P-EBT for the 2022 to 2023 school year:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Understanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
To understand how you could benefit from EBT cards, you should first learn about SNAP. SNAP is a federally-funded program that provides assistance to low-income families so that they may afford monthly grocery bills. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the federal department that is responsible for offering this program to eligible people through the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Applicants must fulfill certain requirements to be accepted for this program.
How Much Does a Recipient Receive?
How much you can get from SNAP depends on your current circumstances. There are, however, limits on the amount of money you can receive based on how many family members you have. The majority of states that provide SNAP comply with the following maximum amounts:
- The maximum monthly benefit for a single-person family is $291.
- $535 is the maximum benefit for a 2-person family.
- Up to $766 in benefits are available to families of 3.
- The maximum benefit for a family of 4 is $973 per month.
- For a family of five, the maximum benefit is $1,155 per month.
- $1,386 is the maximum benefit for a family of 6.
- The maximum benefit for a family of 7 is $1,532.
- For a family of 8, the maximum benefit is $1,751.
- A household of over 8 people will receive $219 in extra benefits for each additional person.
The figures in this table could change. They only show you a range of what you can expect from Oct. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2024.
What Can You Purchase With EBT Cards?
Since SNAP aims to help with food costs, not everything in a grocery store will count as a qualifying food item. You should keep in mind that you can use your EBT card for specific types of groceries such as:
- Fruits and vegetables
- All kinds of meat, including fish and poultry
- Groceries made from grains, such as cereals and bread
- Dairy products like milk and cheese
- Snack foods
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- Seeds and plants that produce food
Meanwhile, there are some items that you can’t buy with EBT cards, such as:
- Beverages containing alcohol
- Point-of-sale (POS) hot food items
- Non-food products (including household items, gardening products, etc.)
- Supplements including vitamins and medications
- Live animals (with exceptions)
How to Apply for SNAP Benefits?
Applying for SNAP is easy; you simply need to contact your state agency. To do that, you can either visit their website, call the toll-free hotline, or go to a physical office. Your state agency is the starting point for the application process. The specifics of the application process will depend on the state where you live since the requirements in each state are different. It usually takes the state agency (or local SNAP office) 30 days to complete an application after submission. You will find out whether you are eligible once they review your application. As part of this process, you will have to go through an eligibility interview. Additionally, you will need to provide supporting documentation to back up the information on your application.
How Long Will Your SNAP Benefits Last?
Once your application for SNAP assistance has been approved, you will get information about how long you will be eligible to receive benefits. The duration of the benefits is called a certification period. When your certification period expires, you will receive a reminder to recertify. If you would like to keep receiving benefits, recertification is essential.
How Do You Appeal a SNAP Decision?
What if your state agency found you ineligible and rejected your application? In that situation, you might think they made the wrong decision. As a result, you can request a fair hearing if you want to appeal your agency’s decision. A hearing will take place with a government representative who must, by law, reconsider your case (fairly and impartially). After a decision has been made on your SNAP application, you have 90 days to file a request for a hearing. There are three ways to make a request: in person, over the phone, or online.
The federal government offers a variety of support opportunities to help people afford needs like food. One of those opportunities is the popular program SNAP. As a recipient, you will get an EBT card to use in grocery stores that are approved. There is a long list of products and food items that you can buy with this card. However, keep in mind that non-food items do not qualify for this support. You should get in touch with your local SNAP office or state agency if you want to take advantage of this program. You can start the application process or ask any questions over the phone, in person, or online.