FAQs: SNAP (Food Stamps)



Q: What is SNAP?

A: SNAP is the new name for Food Stamps. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. "SNAP benefits" is the same thing as "food stamps."

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Q: What is EBT?

A: EBT stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer. It is the system the government uses to distribute SNAP benefits.

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Q: What is an ACCESS Card?

A: The ACCESS Car is similar to a debit or credit card. SNAP benefits are provided monthly through an ACCESS Card. The ACCESS Card is sometimes called an EBT Card.

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Q: Who can get SNAP?

A: It depends on a person's household size, income, expenses and other factors. Households have to meet income tests to receive benefits, but households that have members who are disabled or elderly (60+) can have higher incomes and still be eligible.

See SNAP Income Limits.

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Q: What incomes is considered for SNAP?

A: Income includes wages, unemployment compensation, SSI (Supplemental Security Income), pensions, veteran's benefits, child support, etc.

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Q: What expenses are considered for SNAP?

A: Expenses include rent or mortgage, utilities, property taxes, dependent care cost and medical expenses.

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Q: Can I get SNAP if I am working?

A: Yes. Employment does not interfere with getting SNAP. Even if you are working, but earning low wages, you may be eligible.

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Q: How many people use SNAP?

A: To find out how many people in Philadelphia, the five-county region and Pennsylvania are enrolled in SNAP, see our most recent SNAP statistics.

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Q: Can someone who owns a home or a car get SNAP?

A: Yes. As long as the meet the income limits. People can apply for SNAP, even if:

  • They own a home or car.
  • They have a bank account.
  • They are homeless.
  • They are immigrants.
  • They have a criminal record.

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Q: Are immigrants eligible to receive SNAP?

A: Yes, some immigrants are eligible to receive SNAP. Receiving SNAP will not negatively affect your immigration status because SNAP is not a public charge. Legal immigrants can often receive SNAP benefits if they meet any of the following criteria.:

  • Have lived in the country for 5 years or more.
  • Are children (18 years or under)
  • Are disabled (Immigrants receiving disability benefits, such as SSI or disability-related Medicaid are eligible).
  • Are Refugees or Asylees.

Undocumented immigrants and those on student or tourist visas are not eligible to receive SNAP.

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Q: How do I apply for SNAP in Philadelphia?

A: There are three ways:

  • Call the Coalition's SNAP Hotline at 215-430-0556. A hotline counselor can tell you if you qualify and help you apply by phone. Open Monday-Thursday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and Friday 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
  • Apply in person at your County Assistance Office. If you don't know where your office is, call the SNAP Hotline at 215-430-0556 and we will help you find it.
  • Apply online through COMPASS at www.compass.state.pa.us

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Q: How long does it take to get approved for SNAP?

A: It depends on the person's household circumstances. Generally, a SNAP application can take up to 30 days to get approved. Some households may be able to receive SNAP benefits quickly if they are eligible for Expedited Services ("Emergency Benefits"). People who qualify for Emergency Benefits can get their benefits within 5 calendar days.

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Q: Who is eligible for Emergency Benefits?

A: A household is eligible for Emergency Benefits if they meet one of the following:

  • The value of total liquid resources if $100 or less and countable monthly gross income is less than $150; OR
  • The household's combined monthly gross income and liquid resources are less than their monthly shelter expenses. Shelter expenses include rent or mortgage, property taxes, homeowner's insurance, and the appropriate standard utility allowance; OR
  • All members are migrant workers or seasonal farm workers who have $100 or less in liquid resources and have nothing else to live on.

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Q: What happens after I apply for SNAP?

A: After you have submitted an application, the County Assistance Office (CAO) will ask you to provide verification documents such as proof of state ID, income, address, and shelter cost. The CAO will schedule an interview and send you a letter with the date and time of the interview. The interview is usually done over the phone and takes about 10-15 minutes. You have 30 days from the day you apply to provide the documents that your CAO asks for and complete the interview. The office has 30 days to approve or deny your application.

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Q: How do I submit my verification documents?

A: You can provide documents to your local CAO in person, by mail, by fax or by using the Attach Scanned Document (ASD) tool through COMPASS.

  • Note: If you are submitting your documents in person, make sure you get a receipt as proof.

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Q: What is COMPASS Attach Scanned Documents (ASD)?

A: COMPASS ASD allows individuals and Community Partners to scan/import and submit verification documents from various access points within COMPASS.

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Q: How do I check the status of my application?

A: If you applied online, you can check the status of your application at www.compass.state.pa.us. You may also call the Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226 to check the status of your application.

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Q: What if I still need help applying for SNAP?

A: Call the Coalition's SNAP Hotline: 215-430-0556

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