Work Incentives Working Group

State Public Benefits Manual

Returning to Work:
Questions and Answers for People Recieving SSI and/or SSDI

 

State Public Benefits Manual

CHAPTER SEVEN
FOOD STAMPS

The Food Stamp program is a federally funded program administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). Food stamp benefits are given to households. Households can use food stamp benefits to buy any food or food product for human consumption, plus seeds and plants for use in home gardens to grow food.

Households cannot use food stamp benefits to buy:

  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
  • Hot food ready to eat or foods intended to be heated in the store
  • Lunch counter items or foods to be eaten in the store
  • Vitamins or medicines
  • Pet foods
  • Any non-food items (except seeds and plant)

Certain restaurants are authorized to accept food stamp benefits in exchange for low-costs meals from qualified homeless, elderly or people with disabilities. Food stamps cannot be exchanged for cash.

Eligibility

While many factors determine the amount of and eligibility for food stamp benefits, the most important are:

  • Amount of household income and expenses
  • Number of persons living and eating together
  • Amount of available liquid assets, such as money in checking and savings accounts

The IDHS worker will complete a food stamp worksheet on the computer. The individual has the right to see the calculation. NOTE: The worksheet is available at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago website at www.lafchicago.org.

The chart below shows the highest gross income a household can have in a month and still receive food stamp benefits. Gross income is the total monthly income from all sources before any deductions.


Applying For Food Stamps

An individual must apply for food stamp benefits at an IDHS office. If an individual is unable to get to a local IDHS office because of a disability, he/she can request an interview at home or over the telephone.

Food Stamp Work Requirements

Some people in Illinois who receive food stamp benefits will only get three months of benefits in a 36-month period if they are the ages of 19 through 49 unless they meet the work requirement.

However, many categories of person who are ages 18 through 49 are not covered by the work requirements. Persons not covered are those who are:

  • physically or mentally unable to work, pregnant,
  • a student enrolled at least half time,
  • a member of a household responsible for a dependent child,
  • responsible for the care of an incapacitated person,
  • participating in a drug addiction or alcoholism treatment and rehabilitation program,
  • receiving unemployment insurance, or
  • residing in an exempt locale.

Ways to Meet the Work Requirement

There are several different ways to meet the requirement:

  • Work at least 80 hours a month or earn gross wages of at least $412.
  • Participate in and comply with one of the following activities of the Food Stamp Employment and Training program: Earnfare, Work Experience, Illinois Works or Employability Services.
  • Participate in a work program through DHS, a local governmental unit or a provider under contract with DHS. The number of hours that must be worked is based on the amount of food stamp benefits received.
  • Perform volunteer community work at community agencies, churches or other similar organizations. The number of hours that must be worked is based on the amount of food stamp benefits received.

Food Stamp Eligibility If Work Requirement Is Not Met

If the work requirement is not met, an individual can receive food stamp benefits only for three months in a 36-month period. To receive benefits after the three months, the client must either:

  • Regain eligibility for an additional three-month period by meeting the work requirement in a 30-day period after losing eligibility for not meeting the requirement, or
  • Meet the work requirement each month.

When circumstances change and the client becomes exempt, the work requirement does not have to be met.

Emergency Food Stamps

Emergency Food Stamps are available on an expedited basis to households in which:

  • the food stamp unit has no more than $100 in cash and no more than $150 in gross income in the month of application; or
  • the food stamp unit has liquid assets of $100 or less and at least one person is a migrant worker who is out of funds; or
  • the food stamp unit and combined gross countable income and liquid assets are less than the household's monthly rent or mortgage payments plus utilities.

The local DHS office must interview the applicant for emergency food stamps the day of the application or the next working day. Benefits must be available no later than the fifth calendar day after the date of application or the date the applicant qualifies for expedited processing.

NOTE: Food Stamps are given out as a debit on the Illinois LINK card.
If an individual has difficulty with the LINK card, the advocate may need to contact the caseworker to ask about an accommodation.

Problems with Food Stamp Benefits?

Call the Illinois Department of Human Services at 1-800-252-8635
(TTY: 800-447-6404) or the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago Public Benefits Hotline at 888-893-5327.

 

BACK TO TOP

CHAPTER ONE
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY PROGRAMS

CHAPTER TWO
HOW TO WORK AND MAINTAIN SOME SSDI OR SSI BENEFITS

CHAPTER THREE
STATE ADMINISTERED BENEFITS

CHAPTER FOUR
HOW THE MEDICAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS WORK

CHAPTER FIVE
MEDICARE

CHAPTER SIX
OTHER STATE AND LOCAL PROGRAMS THAT PROVIDE CASH OR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE

CHAPTER SEVEN
FOOD STAMPS

CHAPTER EIGHT
OFFICE OF REHABILITATIVE SERVICES (ORS)

CHAPTER NINE

OTHER BENEFITS AND/OR PROTECTIONS