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Food Stamps

Food Stamp Program

Food Stamp Application/Interview Process

How and Where do you apply for Food Stamps?
Applications can be obtained and completed at the local food stamp office that will normally be in the county or city in which your client lives. Your clients have the right to submit the application the same day. You can also call the office and ask them to send you an application, help your client fill it in and send it in by mail, or in some cases, by fax. The local office will give your client an appointment for an interview.

What personal forms and information are needed to enroll?
Prior to being certified, your clients must provide their physical identification and a Social Security number or proof that they have applied for one if they do not have one.

How long does it take to process an application?
Your clients find out if they are eligible within 30 days of submitting their application. Your clients who have not heard within this timeframe should call or visit their state food stamp office.

What if an application is incomplete?
Your clients' application will be accepted and an interview will be scheduled, as long as the application contains your clients' name, address (if applicable), and signature. However, before eligibility can be determined, your client may be required to provide the missing information.

How long can my clients get Food Stamps? Do my clients need to reapply for benefits?
Once your clients are approved for food stamps, they are given a set time that benefits will last. This set time is called a “certification period”, and can last anywhere from one to 12 months. The food stamp office sends your client a notice that it is time to come in for re-certification toward the end of the certification period.

What is the food stamp application process like?
Applying for food stamps consists of three steps: filing an application form, being interviewed by a food stamp case worker, and verifying information provided at the interview.

How should my client file an application for food stamps?
Your clients can submit their application at any food stamp office, or at many legal aid offices and drop-in centers. Your clients can also call the food stamp office and ask that an application be sent to them by mail. The food stamp office must provide the application form on the day it is requested and accept the application on the day it is filed. Your clients can submit their application to the food stamp office in person, through an authorized representative or by mail. Each state also has its own food stamp hotline.

What is an authorized representative?
An authorized representative is someone your clients approve to apply for and collect food stamps on their behalf. Applicants may ask a friend or relative to act as an authorized representative if they anticipate having trouble with the application process or getting to the store to use their benefits.

Authorized representatives may also purchase food for your clients using the EBT card or food stamp coupons. All food stamps collected on behalf of your client must be used for your client’s benefit. To select an authorized representative, your client must write a letter to the food stamp office. The letter should contain the name of the authorized representative, date, and your client's signature.

Can my client receive expedited food stamp benefits?
Yes. Clients that have less than $150/month in income and no more than $100 in resources, or shelter costs in excess of their combined income and resources can get expedited service. Expedited service requires that the agency provide food stamps within seven days of the application date.

Case managers should note that many people who are homeless qualify for expedited service. If expedited service is denied, an applicant has a right to a fair hearing.

To get expedited service, verification of your client's identity is required. No other verification is needed to receive the first month’s worth of food stamps. To receive additional months of food stamps, your clients will need to help verify any information on which verification was postponed at initial certification.

Do my clients have to be interviewed to get Food Stamps?
Yes. Typically your clients will have a face-to-face interview at the food stamp office to determine eligibility. Before the meeting, the food stamp office should provide your clients with a list of documentation to bring.

The state agency is required to inform your clients of their right to waive a face-to-face interview in favor of a telephone interview, if a hardship is determined by the agency. Examples of hardships include, but are not limited to:

  • Illness
  • Transportation difficulties
  • Work or training hours, which prevent your clients from making it to a food stamp office while it is open

What documentation should my client bring to the interview to prove his/her identity?
The food stamp agency must accept any documents that reasonably establish your client's identity. No requirement for a specific type of document may be imposed.
Examples of acceptable documentation include, but are not limited to:

  • Driver’s license
  • Identification card
  • Identification for health benefits or for other assistance or social services programs
  • Voter registration card
  • Birth certificate

If no documentation is available, the food stamp agency can verify identity through a collateral contact, such as a call to a homeless shelter or a case manager.
Under these liberal rules, the state agency should be able to verify information for almost any homeless client. If the food stamp agency denies benefits to your clients for lack of identification, they can challenge the denial through a fair hearing.

Can my client apply for Food Stamps through a pre-release program?
Yes. Pre-release programs are designed to allow people in public institutions (institutions owned by or controlled by the Federal government, a state, a city, or a county) to apply for benefits, even though they will not receive benefits until their release.

Under Food Stamp Program regulations, if your clients are applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through a pre-release program they can apply for food stamp benefits jointly with their application for SSI. You should ensure that your clients in pre-release programs who are applying for SSI are also applying for food stamps.