The following overview and related information about Food Stamps is adapted from a Food Stamp Brochure available from Food Stamp Offices. References to Title 7 of the DHS Employees' Policy Manual have been added.
The Food Stamp Program helps low-income people buy the food they need for good health. You may be able to get food stamps if you:
· work for low wages,
· are unemployed or work part time,
· receive welfare or other public assistance payments,
· are elderly or disabled and live on a small income, or
· are homeless.
State public assistance agencies run the program through their local offices.
The amount of food stamps you can get is based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Thrifty Food Plan, which is an estimate of how much it costs to buy food to prepare nutritious, low-cost meals for your household. This estimate is changed every year to keep pace with food prices. (See Food Stamp Benefit Levels.)
In the Food Stamp Program, a household is normally a group of people who live together and buy food and prepare meals together. If your household passes the program’s eligibility tests, the amount of food stamps you get will depend on the number of people in your household and on how much monthly income is left after certain expenses (deductions) are subtracted. (See Food Stamp Eligibility.)
For most households, food stamps are only part of their food budgets; they must spend some of their own cash along with their food stamps in order to buy enough food for a month.
For more information or to apply for food stamps, you may call the Iowa food stamp hotline: 1-800-972-2017.
Applying for Food Stamps
The food stamp office will give you an application form on the same day you ask for one. You may ask for it in person, over the phone, or by mail; or someone else may get one for you.
The office will accept the form on the same day you turn it in, even if they cannot interview you on that day.
Fill in your name, address, telephone number, and as much other information as you can on the form, and sign it. Give or send the form to the office as soon as possible. A food stamp worker can help you fill out the rest of the form during your interview.
YOU MUST ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS COMPLETELY AND HONESTLY. IF YOU FAIL TO DO SO, YOU CAN BE REMOVED FROM THE PROGRAM, FINED, PUT IN PRISON, OR ALL THREE.
If you qualify for food stamps, you will be sent a notice of your eligibility no later than 30 days from the date the office got your application.
If your household has little or no money and needs help right away, let the food stamp office know—you may be able to get food stamps within 5 working days. (See the 4th bullet under Food Stamps Rights and Responsibilities).
If you and everyone you live with are applying for or getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, you may apply for food stamps in your Social Security district office.
Households that are applying for public assistance and, in some locations, State or local general assistance can apply for food stamps at the same time.
Other households must apply for food stamps through their local food stamp or welfare office.
After you have turned in your application, the food stamp office will contact you to set up an interview to go over your application.
A food stamp worker will explain the program rules and help you complete any parts of the application that you have not filled out. The worker will also ask you for proof of certain information you have given. Ask the worker to explain anything you don’t understand. It’s important that you understand the rules.
Receiving Your Food Stamps
If the office finds that you are eligible, you will be notified of your eligibility no later than 30 days from the date you first applied, unless you qualify for faster service. If you have no income (or very little income) for the month and you need help right away, you may qualify for 7-day service.
Food stamp benefits are issued to households in different ways in different places. The local food stamp worker will explain how food stamps will be issued to you. Eligible households will be given an identification card that they must show when picking up their food stamps. In some areas, this will be a photo ID.
If you are told to pick up your food stamps but you can’t, tell the food stamp worker. You may name someone else to pick them up for you.
Spending Your Food Stamps
You can spend food stamps like cash at most stores that sell food. The cashier may ask you to show your food stamp ID.
Food stamps can only be used for food and for plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat.
Sales tax cannot be charged on items bought with food stamps.
Food stamps cannot be used to buy:
· Any nonfood item, such as pet foods; soaps, paper products, and household supplies; grooming items, toothpaste, and cosmetics
· Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
· Vitamins and medicines
· Any food that will be eaten in the store
· Hot foods that are ready to eat
· Any food marketed to be heated in the store
If you are issued food stamps in booklets and your food stamps get loose from the booklet cover, keep the cover. Stores cannot accept any food stamps without a booklet cover except for the $1 kind. If the cashier owes you change from a food stamp purchase, up to 99 cents of it can be in coins. Change in even dollar amounts will be given to you in $1 food stamps.
Reporting on Your Household Circumstances
Some households are required to report on their household circumstances every month. Other households are required to report changes in household circumstances when they become known. You may report changes by calling the food stamp office. However, it is better to write down the change and mail it to the office.
If you are eligible for food stamps, you will be told what information to report and when to report.
IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT YOU REPORT CHANGES, SO THAT YOUR HOUSEHOLD GETS THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FOOD STAMPS. IF YOU GET ANY EXTRA FOOD STAMPS BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT REPORTED THE RIGHT INFORMATION, YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY BACK THE VALUE OF THE EXTRA FOOD STAMPS.
· Food Stamp Eligibility
· Food Stamp Benefit Levels
· Food Stamps and Work
· Food Stamps Rights and Responsibilities
· Welcome and Introduction to Iowa Benefits
· Chapter A, Administration, Overview, Purpose and Organization of the Food Stamp Program
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