I wanted to give an update about how using food stamps is going for us, as well as answer a few questions you may have about the program. We received about $300 a month worth of food stamps for December and January, plus half a month’s worth for last November, too. Currently we have about $465 on our EBT card because we don’t spend nearly the amount on food a month that we’re given.
I was sent a letter saying I didn’t need to notify them unless our income went over $2,794 for the month before deductions (what a difference from WIC, where I had to show proof of income every time I had an appointment!). I think we MIGHT go over that amount this month, although I’m not positive. I called today to ask them some questions about this, and noticed through google searching that I’m not the only one with these questions. So in case you have the same questions I had, here you go:
What happens to the food stamp money left on my EBT card if our income goes up and we no longer qualify?
It may vary from state to state, but it sounds like most states will let you continue to use the benefits you have accrued until they are gone, as long as you don’t take too long (6 months to a year depending on your state, it sounds like). This means if we stop qualifying for food stamps soon (and I think we may), then I can continue the next few months to use our EBT card to buy fresh produce or whatever other food I want. You don’t need to run out and spend every cent on your card and stockpile before you are ineligible.
WIC is the same story. Although I canceled my last WIC appointment, I was still able to use the remaining vouchers that I had received from the previous appointment.
Do I need to report income changes?
I would have thought the obvious answer was yes, but that’s not always the case. I was “assigned to a special group of cases with fewer reporting requirements.” Those are the exact words on the letter they sent me when we first became eligible for benefits. They told me they would redetermine my eligibility in 6 months, but in the meantime I ONLY needed to let them know about income changes if we went over $2,794 gross per month. That amount, I believe, is also the amount that would make our family size ineligible for food stamp benefits in our state.
In December, thanks to a Christmas bonus and my first paycheck, we had a considerable increase in income, but we were still under the limit for us by $30, so I didn’t report it. Check your paperwork. I think most people need to report income changes by the 10th of the next month, even if income just goes up slightly, but some of us for some reason don’t.
If you aren’t required to report changes and you do anyway, they will change your benefits. I called our caseworker and let her know we MIGHT go over the amount, and she said she would send us a form to fill out either way with our change in income. So even if we don’t go over, because of my call we will most likely start getting less benefits.
I honestly think this makes sense on their part. It does stink a little bit that me letting them know our income has gone up slightly (even though I didn’t HAVE to tell them yet) may cause us to get less benefits. I actually think we will go over the limit in January, so our benefits are going to be cut either way, though, so my conversation with our caseworker probably didn’t cost us any loss in benefits. Some of you may like to know though that if you aren’t required to let them know of an income increase, it pays to keep your mouth shut until you are supposed to tell them.
Is it easy to use food stamps compared to WIC?
YES! YES! YES! I can’t get over how much quicker, easier, and less embarrassing it is to check out with food stamps. I don’t even have to say anything! I just swipe the card like a debit card.
The first time I was checking out with them, I separated my order and put the non-food items in the back (as I usually do when checking out with WIC vouchers). I told the cashier lady right away that I was paying with food stamps, so not to ring up the non-food items. She looked at me and said “oh it’s okay, it will separate the stuff for us.” You pay with your EBT card and then it will tell you how much is left that food stamps doesn’t cover, and then you pay for the rest. Simple!
The people behind me never know if I am paying by debit card or with food stamps. The only person who knows is the cashier. I never hold the line up with food stamps like I do when checking out with WIC. With WIC, the cashiers sometimes get nervous that they’re going to punch in something wrong or ring up a not-allowed food item. But the cashiers are all completely comfortable checking people out with EBT cards.
I’m enjoying this change very much!