Food Stamp Program

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The Food Stamp Program provides monthly benefits that help low-income households buy the food they need for good health. The goal of the program is to promote the general welfare and to safeguard the health and well-being of the population through the issuance of benefits to all eligible households. For most households, food stamps account for only a portion of their food budgets; they must also use their own funds to buy food sufficient to last throughout the month.

This program was established by Congress in 1964 by PL 88-55 which was superseded by the Food Stamp Act of 1977 and subsequent amendments to the Act. It is administered at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Food and Nutrition Service and at the state level by the Department of Social Services-Office of Family Support. Besides certification and issuance activities, the Food Security Act of 1985 mandated that employment and training services be provided for food stamp recipients who are mandatory work registrants. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, which was signed into law on August 22, 1996, implemented many changes in the Food Stamp program, including a limit on the number of months certain persons can receive food stamp benefits without working.

Social Service Analysts in the parish offices are responsible for the determination of eligibility and the certification of eligible households for food stamps. The issuance of food stamp benefits to eligible households is performed by Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). The employment and training activities, known as the Louisiana Job Employment Training (LaJET) Program, are accomplished through the cooperative efforts of the Food Stamp Program, the OFS parish offices, local governing authorities in the State and the Louisiana Department of Labor. The LaJET Program, in parishes where available, is a participant-centered effort to provide employment services to selected food stamp recipients.

The amount of food stamp benefits that a household is eligible to receive is based on the Thrifty Food Plan amounts that are established by the USDA-Food and Nutrition Service (refer to chart for these Thrifty Food Plan amounts). They are current estimates of the actual costs for providing a household with nutritious but inexpensive meals. These are the maximum amounts that a household with zero net monthly income can receive in food stamp benefits each month. If a household meets all eligibility requirements, the amount of their food stamp benefits is dependent on both the number of persons in the household and the net monthly income amount remaining after all allowable deductions have been subtracted.

The eligibility requirements for the Food Stamp Program are:

1. Residence - the client must be living in the parish where he applies.

2. Citizenship - all household members must be U.S. citizens. Only certain aliens are eligible and there are time limits on some groups of aliens.

3. Enumeration - households must provide or apply for Social Security numbers for each member before certification.

4. Work Registration - all able-bodied adults, with specific exceptions, must register for work and accept suitable employment.

5. Work Requirements - all able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 50 (with no dependents), with specific exceptions, must work or be involved in a work-related training program for a specific number of hours monthly in order to receive food stamps for more than three months in a 36 month period.

6. Resources - the household is ineligible if total countable resources, such as cash, bank accounts, and real property other than home property, exceed $2000 (or $3000 if a member is 60 years of age or older or disabled).

7. Income - in order to be eligible for food stamps, the household's countable gross income before any deductions, cannot exceed the Maximum Gross Income Standard and the net monthly income remaining after subtracting allowable deductions cannot exceed the Maximum Net Monthly Income Standard. Households with an elderly or disabled member have to meet the Maximum Net Monthly Income Standard only. If eligible based on the income standard(s), the household's net income amount will be compared to the Coupon Allotment Tables to determine their actual food stamp benefits each month.

8. Income deductions allowed in the food stamp budget are subtracted from both earned and unearned income. The deductions are:

Earned Income Deduction - 20% of gross earnings
Standard Deduction - $134 for 1 to 4 household members; $149 for 5 household members and $171 for 6 or more household members.
Medical Deduction - allowable medical expenses incurred by elderly or disabled household members in excess of $35 per household
Dependent Care Deduction - payments for the care of a child or other dependent which are necessary for a household member to work, up to a maximum of $200 per month per dependent under two years of age and $175 per month per dependent for all other dependents.
Child Support Deduction - allowable for payments of legally obligated child support.
Shelter Deduction - allowable shelter costs (rent or mortgage, property taxes, insurance on the structure and utility expenses) in excess of 50% of household income remaining after all other deductions. For households with an elderly or disabled member, there is no limit on the shelter deduction; for all other households the shelter deduction cannot exceed $378.

Food Stamp benefits are 100% federally funded, while administrative costs of the Food Stamp Program are funded with 50% federal funds and 50% state funds. (Administrative costs of the LaJET Program are funded with 100% federal funds, and the fraud and recovery activities are funded with 50% federal funds and 50% state funds.) Total benefits of $664,909,710 were issued during Fiscal Year 02-03, a monthly average of $55,409,142. An average of 230,083 households participated each month. The average monthly benefit amount per household was $240.79.

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