Lynne A. Valenti
Cabinet Secretary

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible to receive SNAP benefits?

Households must meet eligibility requirements and provide information and verification about their household circumstances.

To participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:

  • Households may have no more than $2,250 in countable resources, such as a bank account ($3,250 if at least one person in the household is a person with a disabilaty or age 60 or older). Certain resources are not counted, such as your home and one vehicle.
  • The gross monthly income of most households must be 130 percent or less of the Federal poverty guidelines. Gross income includes all cash payments to the household, with a few exceptions specified in the law or the program regulations.
  • Net monthly income must be 100 percent or less of the Federal poverty guidelines. Net income is figured by adding all of a household's gross income, and then subtracting the approved deductions for shelter costs, dependent care costs, child support payments made to someone not living with the household, and medical expenses for individuals over the age of 60 or with a disability. Households with a person with a disability or age 60 or older are subject only to the net income test.
  • Most able-bodied adult applicants must meet certain work requirements.
  • All household members must provide a Social Security number or apply for one, if they wish to receive benefits.
  • Federal poverty guidelines are established by the Office of Management and Budget and are updated annually by the Department of Health and Human Services.

What foods are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits?

USDA-FNS defines the food items that are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.  DSS does not have the authority to change the food definition. 

Households CAN use SNAP benefits to buy:

  • Foods for the household to eat such as breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; and dairy products.
  • Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco;
  • Any nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products and household supplies
  • Vitamins and medicines.
  • Food that will be eaten in the store.
  • Hot foods

How is each household's SNAP allotment determined?

Eligible households are issued a monthly allotment of SNAP benefits based on the Thrifty Food Plan, a low-cost model diet plan. The TFP is based on National Academy of Sciences’ Recommended Dietary allowances, and on food choices of low-income households. An individual household's SNAP allotment is equal to the maximum allotment for that household's size, less 30 percent of the household's net income.

What are some characteristics of SNAP households?

SNAP statistics for South Dakota as of July 2014:

  • Almost half of all participants are children (under age 18)
  • 64% of SNAP recipients are children, elderly and disabled persons
  • 7% of all participants are elderly (age 60 or over)
  • The average SNAP household size is 2 persons
  • Among adult participants, 56% are Female and 44% are Male
  • 47% of participants are White; 42%t are Native American; 11% are in the other race categories

What measures are taken to ensure integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and to prevent benefit fraud?

The Department of Social Services is committed to the integrity of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Benefits Specialists carefully evaluate each application to determine eligibility and the appropriate level of benefits, ensuring that only eligible individuals participate and that recipients receive the correct amount of benefits.  South Dakota has a proven track record for providing accurate benefits to the households it serves with a payment accuracy rate off 99.01% for Federal Fiscal Year 2013.

USDA-FNS is responsible for authorizing and monitoring retailers that accept EBT cards.  If a retailer is suspected of being involved in the illegal sale of SNAP benefits for cash or other ineligible items, they will be investigated by FNS.  If found guilty of violating program rules, retailers can face heavy fines, removal from the list of eligible vendors or face jail time. 

What keeps unqualified people from getting SNAP benefits?

As part of the commitment to program integrity, USDA works closely with the states to ensure they issue their benefits correctly. State workers carefully evaluate each application to determine eligibility and the appropriate level of benefits. USDA monitors the accuracy of eligibility and benefit determinations. States that fail to meet standards for issuing their SNAP benefits correctly can be sanctioned by USDA and those exceeding the standard for payment accuracy can be eligible for additional funding support. People who receive SNAP benefits in error must repay any benefits for which they did not qualify.

When did the program begin?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program traces its earliest origins back to the Food Stamp Plan, which began in 1939 to help needy families in the Depression Era. The modern program began as a pilot project in 1961 and was authorized as a permanent program in 1964. Expansion of the program occurred most dramatically after 1974, when Congress required all states to offer food stamps to low-income households. The Food Stamp Act of 1977 made significant changes in program regulations, tightening eligibility requirements and administration, and removing the requirement that benefits be purchased by participants.