How to Apply for Food Stamps in PA

Having trouble putting food on your table? Let SNAP/Food Stamps help you!The U.S. government’s main food assistance program is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or “food stamps.”

This federal program is administered in Pennsylvania by the PA Department of Human Services (DHS). Food stamps are a public benefit that you can use to help you and/or your family pay for food. Most low-income households are eligible for SNAP benefits, which are automatically placed on their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card each month.

Below is information on how Just Harvest can help you access SNAP benefits as well as Frequently Asked Questions about shopping with, qualifying for, applying for, and maintaining SNAP benefits.

Get help with getting SNAP

PA DHS has contracted Just Harvest to provide free SNAP eligibility screenings and streamlined application assistance to residents of Allegheny County. Our decades of expertise enables us to help you with all of your SNAP/food stamps questions, problems, and concerns.

Just Harvest’s Food Stamps Team can:

orange arrowaccurately and efficiently submit a SNAP application for you – saving you time, hassle, and stress while ensuring your privacy.
orange arrowassist you with annual re-certifications; and
orange arrowprovide case advocacy regarding unfairly denied, terminated, or incorrect benefits.

Navigating the food stamps benefits system can feel discouraging or overwhelming at a time when your life is already hard enough. But you can count on our knowledgeable and compassionate team to help you at any point in the process.

NEED HELP WITH FOOD STAMPS IN ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PA?

Just Harvest staff are working remotely due to the pandemic but can help you by phone. Please fill out this form so we can contact you.

Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Just Harvest cannot help you. Please visit this page for information on applying for SNAP elsewhere in PA, or visit this page for help with SNAP in another state.

SNAP Benefits FAQ

How do I shop with SNAP benefits?

What can I buy with food stamps?

Your SNAP Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card works like a debit card. You can use your EBT card to buy food at most grocery stores. At the checkout counter, you swipe the card and enter a 4-digit PIN number to use your SNAP benefits to buy food.

You can buy any food product available at participating grocery stores (with the exception of prepared foods), including seeds and plants used to grow food at home. If you are homeless or unable to cook, you can use SNAP benefits at participating restaurants. Some Meals on Wheels kitchens also accept food stamps.

  • You can locate stores that accept SNAP benefits online at: snapretailerlocator.com.
  • Learn how you can use your food stamps at participating area farmers markets and healthy corner stores – along with our Food Bucks coupons – to buy nutritious fresh food through our Fresh Access and Fresh Corners programs.

What can’t I buy with food stamps?

You cannot use food stamps to buy any non-food product, fast food, hot foods, pet food, or alcohol.

How can I qualify for SNAP?

You are eligible if:

  • You are a resident of the county where you are applying for benefits. (Just Harvest provides application assistance for Allegheny County.)
  • You are able to provide verification of identity.
  • All household members must have a Social Security Number or apply for one.
  • You are a U.S. citizen or a qualified non-citizen meeting the other eligibility rules.
  • You meet the work requirements for able-bodied adults. (See the section below)
  • You meet the income guidelines. (See the chart below.)

Can I qualify even if…

  • I own my own home? YES!
  • I own a car? YES!
  • I work? YES!
  • I have savings? YES! Gov. Wolf has ended the food stamp asset test, which prevented people with more than one car or a certain level of savings from applying for food stamps.
  • I am a student? YES! Students can be eligible if they work 20 hours a week, have a disability, or have children.
  • I receive unemployment, SSI, Medicaid, or other benefits? YES! You can still receive SNAP benefits even if you receive other benefits.
  • I live with others? YES! A household is defined as anyone you buy or share food with. If you live with someone that you do not buy or share food with, they will need to sign a purchase and prepare statement.
  • I am not a US citizen? YES! All refugees are eligible for food stamps. Adults who have been permanent residents for 5 years and all children who are permanent residents are eligible. If you are not eligible for yourself, but you have children who are US citizens or permanent residents, you can apply for your children. Everyone you are applying for must have a Social Security Number.

Income limits:

To qualify for SNAP benefits, your income has to meet certain income limits. There are two types of income limits: gross and net income. Households of 3 or more must be below both the gross and net income limit.

Gross Income Limits:
Gross income refers to all of your earned income (like wages and salaries) and all unearned income (like public benefits and social security) before any taxes or deductions are taken out. In order to qualify for food stamps, your gross income needs to be below the amount in the following table.

SNAP Income Guidelines in Pennsylvania (Oct. 1, 2021 through Sep. 30, 2022)

Household Size

Maximum Gross
Monthly Income

Maximum Gross Monthly Income for household with member age 60+ or disabled

Maximum Monthly
Benefit Amount

1

$1,718

$2,148

$250

2

$2,323

$2,904

$459

3

$2,928

$3,660

$658

4

$3,534

$4,418

$835

5

$4,139

$5,174

$992

6

$4,744

$5,930

$1,190

7

$5,350

$6,688

$1,316

8

$5,955

$7,444

$1,504

9

$6,562

$8,202

$1,692

Each additional family member

+$606

+$758

+$188

Net Income Limits:

Net income guidelines apply to households of 3 or more. They are calculated by a formula that takes into account certain eligible deductions. Households that include someone 60 or older or someone with a disability will have additional deductions available.

Be sure to ask about all possible deductions. Deductions can include the following items:

  • Shelter Costs: rent, mortgage, property taxes and/or homeowners insurance.
  • Utility Allowance: a standard amount that is subtracted based on which utilities you pay.
  • Child Support and Child Care
  • Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses for anyone who is over 59 years old or disabled.

How much in food stamps am I entitled to?

The amount you get in SNAP benefits is based on your income and eligible deductions. The minimum benefit amount for all households is $16 each month. The maximum benefit amounts are provided in the table above.

People who get SNAP/food stamps but not cash assistance and are in a welfare Employment and Training Program are eligible for the same special allowances that cash assistance recipients get. They can get help to pay for childcare and school expenses like books and transportation.

Extra benefits during the pandemic:

Starting April 2020, Congress approved additional benefits for SNAP households during the pandemic for as long as there is an emergency declaration in place. Pennsylvania SNAP households not qualified to receive the maximum monthly benefit will either get a second emergency allotment every month to bring them up to the max, or $95, whichever amount is greater. Learn more about these emergency allotments.

  • SNAP households in PA who had been denied emergency allotments during any months from Sep. 2020 to Apr. 2021 are eligible for settlement funds from a lawsuit, which the state began to distribute in April 2021.

In December 2020, Congress passed a six-month 15% increase to the maximum monthly benefit as part of a COVID Relief package. In March 2021, Pres. Biden extended the 15% increase through September 2021. SNAP benefit amounts and the income limits had their annual increase on Oct. 1, 2021.

How do I apply?

PLEASE NOTE: Everyone who applies for SNAP will need to complete an interview before any benefits are given out.

  • When your application is received, the CAO is supposed to make two attempts to call you within two business days. Caseworker phone numbers show up as COPA (Commonwealth Of PA) on caller IDs.
  • If you miss those calls, you will need to call 855-527-1310 during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:45 PM) to complete the interview. Do not call this number right after submitting your application as it takes some time for your application to get into the system.
  • Interviews will not be scheduled; call in to complete the interview when you are able to.
  • Applications will be denied if no interview is completed.

What if I’m in a financial crisis?

If you are in an emergency situation, make sure you tell the DHS office. You may qualify for “expedited benefits,” which means that you can receive your SNAP/food stamp benefits within five days.

You can qualify to get SNAP sooner if your household:

  • has less than $150 in monthly income and less than $100 available in cash, or
  • has housing and utility costs for the month that are more than your income, or
  • includes only migrant or seasonal farmworkers with less than $100 cash.

How do I continue to receive SNAP benefits?

You will need to be recertified for SNAP/Food Stamp benefits every 12 months. Starting April 1, 2002, PA Dept. of Human Services will once again require SNAP recipients to report any household changes semi-annually (every six months). DHS will mail you a Semi-Annual Reporting Form (SAR) and an annual renewal packet.

Time limit on SNAP for Able-bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs):

Since 1997, federal law has required unemployed adults under age 50 with no disabilities and no dependent children to work or participate in a job training activity. Otherwise, they can only receive SNAP for three months in any three-year period.

In March 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress suspended the ABAWD time limit until one month after the federal emergency declaration is over. 

States are allowed to waive the ABAWD time limit for areas where the unemployment rate is significantly higher than the national average. Pennsylvania and other states suspended ABAWD time limits in 2008 due to high unemployment during the Great Recession but reinstated them in 2016.

In January 2019, the Wolf administration suspended Pennsylvania’s ABAWD time limit for most of the state, including Allegheny County. Whether PA’s SNAP time limit on ABAWDs will return once the pandemic is declared over will likely depend on who is the governor at that time.

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