When SNAP decides the amount of your benefit, they consider the size of your household, your income, and some of your expenses. They take expenses like housing, child care, and medical expenses (for elderly and disabled people) into account when they look at your income by giving you a credit for certain, necessary expenses. They subtract these credits, called “deductions,” from your income, so your “countable income” is lower. Once they have calculated your countable income, they compare it to your household size to determine your monthly SNAP benefit. Generally, the lower your countable income, the higher your benefit will be.
How do my housing expenses affect my food stamps?
One of the things the SNAP agency must consider is the cost of your housing if these costs are very high compared to your income. If a family receives utility assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), the SNAP agency assumes the family is responsible for paying their utility bills and automatically factors that into their housing cost deduction. If the family does not receive LIHEAP benefits, the SNAP agency must ask whether they have utility costs that should be considered. If your total housing costs (including utilities) are high compared to your income, it is important that you get credit for the housing deduction because it may result in a higher SNAP benefit. There is a limit to how much you can deduct for most households, but there is no limit for seniors and SSI recipients.
What should I do to make sure that my utility expenses are counted?
Make sure the SNAP office knows if you pay for utilities, especially if you pay for any heating or cooling costs. Cooling costs include the cost of your electricity if you have air conditioning in your home (including a window unit).
Also, remember to let the SNAP office know if you have other expenses they could consider. These might include:
You cannot get more than the maximum monthly benefit, however, no matter how high your expenses.
Call the LSNJLAWSM Hotline
If you need help with your SNAP benefits or these deductions, you can call LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey’s statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529) for legal advice, information, and referral. You may also apply for help online.
This information last reviewed: Sep 27, 2017