Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Categorical Eligibility [December 31, 2013]   [open pdf - 421KB]

"The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to low-income, eligible households on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card; benefits can then be exchanged for foods at authorized retailers. SNAP reaches a large share of low-income households. In June 2013, there were 47.7 million persons in 23.1 million households benefitting from SNAP. Federal SNAP law provides two basic pathways for financial eligibility to the program: (1) meeting program-specific federal eligibility requirements; or (2) being automatically or 'categorically' eligible for SNAP based on being eligible for or receiving benefits from other specified low-income assistance programs. Categorical eligibility eliminated the requirement that households who already met financial eligibility rules in one specified low-income program go through another financial eligibility determination in SNAP. […] As of July 2013, 43 jurisdictions have implemented what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has called 'broad-based' categorical eligibility. These jurisdictions generally make all households with incomes below a state-determined income threshold eligible for SNAP. […] In all but five of these jurisdictions, there is no asset test required for SNAP eligibility. Categorically eligible families bypass the regular SNAP asset limits. However, their net incomes (income after deductions for expenses) must still be low enough to qualify for a SNAP benefit. That is, it is possible to be categorically eligible for SNAP but have net income too high to actually receive a benefit. The exception to this is one- or two-person households that would still receive the minimum benefit."

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CRS Report for Congress, R42054
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