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SNAP Primer: What Is the Benefit?

And why don't more people enroll?

Who qualifies?
Some 41 million individuals were eligible for SNAP benefits in an average month in 2008, according to the USDA, but 27 million participated and 14 million did not.

You're eligible if:

  • Your monthly net income doesn't exceed $903 for a single person or $1,214 for a married couple.
  • You have savings of less than $3,000, not including individual retirement accounts.
  • You don't live in federally subsidized housing.

More than 66 percent of eligible Americans of any age participated in SNAP in 2008, but only 35 percent of eligible people 60 and older enrolled, according to a USDA study released in June.

The excuse 
The response
Not wanting to "take a handout."
You've paid taxes to make this program possible.
Fearing the stigma of using food stamps. Benefits now come via easy-to-use debit cards.
Not knowing how to qualify or apply. Find out at AARP Benefits QuickLINK.
Fearing they'll deprive others of benefits. The program isn't a limited resource; benefits are available to everyone who qualifies.
Feeling the benefit is negligible. Though the minimum benefit is $16 a month, the average benefit is $70 a month.