What is an EBT Card?

You may have seen signs around your town advertising Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. However, many people don’t know what these cards are or how they can help. Those that struggle with handling the cost of groceries may be able to benefit from this opportunity. If you don’t know what EBT cards are, you may be in for a pleasant surprise!

Understanding Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards

EBT cards are a part of a government support opportunity designed to help people with the cost of groceries. These cards are a part of an electronic system that government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) use. In fact, EBT cards have been the only way to spend SNAP benefits since 2004! This card allows users to purchase food with the funds that the program gives recipients. It’s important to note that EBT cards can only be used at authorized retailers that accept them as a form of payment. Not every store accepts them! EBT cards have also been used in temporary assistance opportunities like Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) which was a program created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of now at the publication of this article, there have been no schools that have been approved to operate for the 2022 to 2023 school year. 

What is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?

It’s hard to fully understand what EBT cards are without knowing what SNAP is. You should make sure you have a clear understanding of this program if you want to better learn about how EBT cards help those in need. SNAP is a government program designed to help those in need afford the cost of groceries every month. It’s available thanks to the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). To benefit from this opportunity, recipients will need to meet eligibility criteria

How Much Will You Get?

The exact amount that you will be able to get from SNAP will depend on your current situation. However, there are maximum benefits in place that are based on the number of family members in your household. The following limits apply to a majority of states that offer SNAP:

  • 1 person household has a maximum benefit of $281
  • 2 person household has a maximum benefit of $516
  • 3 person household has a maximum benefit of $740
  • 4 person household has a maximum benefit of $939
  • 5 person household has a maximum benefit of $1,116
  • 6 person household has a maximum benefit of $1,339
  • 7 person household has a maximum benefit of $1,480
  • 8 person household has a maximum benefit of $1,691
  • Any additional person in a household of 8 gets a maximum benefit of $211 additional benefits each

Keep in mind that these numbers are subject to change! However, these are the values for Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023. The benefits you receive will be placed onto an EBT card which you can then use at qualifying retailers!

What Can You Buy with SNAP?

SNAP is designed to help with groceries which means not everything will qualify as a grocery item. There is a list of approved and not approved foods that recipients can buy with their EBT cards. The following are approved food items:

  • Produce (including vegetables and fruit)
  • Meat (including fish and poultry)
  • Grain products (including cereals and bread)
  • Dairy products 
  • Snack foods
  • Beverages
  • Plants (and seeds) that grow food that the household can eat 

On the other hand, some of the disapproved food items include:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Live animals (with exceptions)
  • Hot foods at the point of sale
  • Non-food items (including hygiene products, pet food, etc.)
  • Supplements (including vitamins and medicines)

How to Apply for SNAP?

If you want to apply for SNAP, you will need to get in touch with your state agency. You can get in touch by:

  • Going online to your state agency website
  • Calling your state’s toll-free information hotline for SNAP
  • Going to your state agency in person 

From there, you will be able to apply. Since each SNAP program will vary based on the state, the specific application process will depend on where you live. Generally, once you submit an application you can expect it to take 30 days for your state agency (or local SNAP office) to process it. After processing your application, you will receive a notice that lets you know whether you qualify or not. During the period it takes to process your application, you will need to do an eligibility interview as well as provide verifying information that matches what you claimed on your application. 

How Long Will You be Able to Get SNAP Support?

If you receive approval to get SNAP benefits, it will specify how long you will be able to get this support. This timeframe is your certification period. Once your certification period comes to an end, you will get a notice that states you need to recertify. Recertification is important if you want to continue to get benefits! 

What if You Don’t Agree with the SNAP Decision?

Let’s say that you apply for SNAP but get denied. If that’s the case, you may disagree with the decision. When you disagree with a decision, you have the right to request a fair hearing. This hearing will be done with an official who has a legal requirement to review your case again (fairly and objectively). If you want to submit a request for a hearing, you will need to do so within 90 days of the day that a decision was made on your SNAP application. To submit a request you can do so in person, over the phone, or online. 

Bottom Line

If you ever come across a store that has a sign that says “EBT is accepted” you now know that is referring to the benefits that come from SNAP. EBT cards are a part of an electronic system and they work similarly to debit cards. However, you can only use these cards at qualifying retailers that accept them as a form of payment. On top of that, they can only buy qualifying food items. SNAP is a program that can help qualifying households in need and this is how people can obtain EBT cards. The EBT cards are filled with funds that the recipient gets every month through the program. If you want to benefit from this opportunity, you can reach out to your local SNAP office or state agency!

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