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Do Felons Qualify For Food Stamps?

Food Stamps (SNAP) is a government program put in place to help people in improvised areas of the country be able to afford purchasing food for their family. This program is incredibly helpful for those that need it, but can convicted felons receive food stamps?  In this post, we will answer that question and give specific details about the SNAP program as well.

Major Points that are Covered:

  • SNAP – A General Overview of the Benefits for Felons
  • State-by-State SNAP Eligibility
  • Applying for SNAP benefits
  • What will SNAP benefits allow you to purchase?

SNAP – A General Overview of the Benefits for Felons

Felons can generally receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, also known formerly as food stamps in most of the 50 states. A ban on SNAP assistance only applies to felons convicted of drug charges – a ban that has been maintained in only 6 states. The majority of states have either eliminated the ban or modified the restrictions.

State-by-State SNAP Eligibility

States that Ban the Issuance of SNAP Benefits for Felons Convicted of Drug Charges

Section listing 115 of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act prevented states from supplying food stamps at the time to felons with drug convictions. States that still have the ban in place include, alphabetically:

  • Alaska
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming
States that Allow Felons with Drug Charges to Collect SNAP Benefits

States that do not impose the ban at all include:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Washington

*Washington DC is also included in this listing.

Remaining States

The remaining states in the U.S. have amended the ban to permit some felons to regain eligibility requirements by meeting certain criteria, such as completing alcohol or drug treatment programs.

Applying for SNAP benefits

If you would like further information about the SNAP program, visit the website at www.fns.usda.gov/snap to obtain the steps you need to take to obtain benefits.

Taking the Burden Off of Re-entry

Each year over 700,000 people are released from federal and state prisons. Another nine million people are cycled through the local jails. Re-entry is important to felons then, especially in the areas of housing, health, education, employment, family and community well-being. Therefore, programs like SNAP are necessary to reduce the strain and stress that affects prisoners who are wish to regain entry into the mainstream.

You Don’t Need a Permanent Address in Order to Apply for SNAP

If you do apply for SNAP, you don’t necessarily need a fixed address. Documents that are received through SNAP by mail include the electronic benefit card (EBT), eligibility interview appointment details or reapplication forms. Notify an eligibility worker at the local SNAP office if you do not have a permanent address.

If you do not have a permanent address, you can choose one of various ways to receive the SNAP EBT card and similar documentation.  SNAP may hold correspondence at the local office for pick-up or you can also provide the address of a trusted family member or friend. The office may also send correspondence to the local area post office as general delivery type mail.

Valid Proofs of Identification

Some felons do not know that they can apply for SNAP benefits or food stamps without a valid state-issued ID. A local SNAP office can accept any documentation that reasonably shows the applicant’s identity. Other acceptable documents, used for ID verification, include:

  • A health benefits ID card, or a card from a similar assistance program
  • A birth certificate
  • Work ID
  • School ID
  • Wage stubs that display the applicant’s name

Using a Collateral Contact for Identification Purposes

If sufficient proof of identification cannot be retained, then the local office may accept a statement from a collateral contact who is able to verify an applicant’s identity. A collateral contact is defined as a person who knows about the application’s circumstances and is able to corroborate the information given on a SNAP application. Examples of collateral contacts include probation officers, social service agency representatives or landlords.

As you can see, you do have access to food stamps or SNAP benefits, especially in many states in the U.S. Make the most of the service in order to regain a footing in the mainstream and add some security and stability to your life.

Visiting the SNAP Website and the Local SNAP Office

In order to apply for SNAP benefits, visit the agency’s website for the state in which you live and sign up for the benefits. The site offers a feature where you can create an account. If you have any questions, call the local office and inquire about any qualifying prerequisites. Explain your situation and fill out the form completely to avoid delays.  It is important to cooperate and work within the system guidelines to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve without interruption and difficulty.

Income and Household Requirements

SNAP allows you to buy groceries and provides free school meals for children in your household who are attending school. To receive the food stamps or SNAP benefits, you have to meet certain income requirements associated with your household’s size.

For instance, a household of one must not make above $1,916 (as of 2015). If you have two people living in your household, then the income cannot rise above $2,586 (as of 2015). Three to four people in a household cannot surpass a monthly respective income of $3,256 and $3,926 (as of 2015) to receive SNAP.

What will SNAP benefits allow you to purchase?

What You Can Buy with SNAP

SNAP benefits can be used for a variety of healthy foods and produce, including fruits, vegetables, breads, dairy and similar foods that are not already prepared hot foods. Seeds and plants that grow sustenance for a household can also be purchased using SNAP payouts.

What You Cannot Buy with SNAP

SNAP benefits cannot be exchanged for money, used by people who do not reside in your household or be used to buy restaurant food, hot foods, or any food eaten in a store. You also cannot apply the benefits to buying such items as household supplies, medicines, vitamins, beer, wine, liquor, or tobacco products.

Opening a Door

SNAP is a program that opens doors for felons who are searching for work or trying to become integrated again into a normal, routine activity. If you are a felon, look at your options. Even if you have a drug charge in your history, you can still make use of the program in most of the U.S.

Do you feel like SNAP benefits should be available to everyone who has been incarcerated?  Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

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