Published On: Nov 11 2013 02:49:08 PM CSTUpdated On: Nov 14 2013 01:00:57 AM CST
More than 47 million Americans received help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, in 2013. Find out more about who is receiving food stamp benefits and what they can be used for.
There were 47.7 million people -- 15 percent of the U.S. population -- using food stamps in fiscal year 2013, according to CNN and the USDA. That's up from 26.3 million, or 8.7 percent of U.S. residents, in 2007.
The average SNAP benefit per person in fiscal year 2013 was $133.07 per person per month, which works out to $4.44 a day in a 30-day month. The household average is $275.13 per month, according to the USDA.
All told, $63.4 billion in SNAP benefits were paid out in fiscal year 2013, according to the USDA.
The maximum amount a single person can receive in food stamps in fiscal year 2014 is $189 per month. The maximum amount a family of four can receive is $632 a month, which works out to $5.27 per person per day in a 30-day month.
Households are eligible for SNAP benefits if their gross monthly income is 130 percent of the poverty level. For fiscal year 2014, that means $1,245 per month for one person or $2,552 per month for a family of four.
Households may also have only limited resources to qualify for food stamps. Most families may only have $2,000 in "countable resources," which includes things like bank accounts, to qualify. If at least one person in the house is over 60 or disabled, households may have $3,250 in countable resources to qualify.
Forty-three percent of food stamp recipients are white, according to SnapToHealth.org. Thirty-three percent are African-American, 19 percent are Hispanic, 2 percent are Asian and 2 percent are Native American.
Forty-nine percent of people who benefit from food stamps are children ages 18 or younger, according to SnapToHealth.org. Nearly two-thirds of those children come from single-parent homes.
Seventy-six percent of food stamps went to households with kids. Sixteen percent of households receiving SNAP benefits included a disabled person and 9 percent included an elderly person.
The average length of time someone is on food stamps is nine months, according to Feeding America.
Able-bodied adults who are between 16 and 60 years old must work, be participating in a workforce training program or be looking for work to receive food stamps without risking being disqualified from the program, according to the USDA. In most states, if someone isn't working or in a training program, they can only receive benefits for three months.
Legal immigrants can receive benefits if they're lived in the U.S. for five years, are receiving disability benefits or have kids under the age of 18, according to the USDA.
SNAP benefits cannot be taken out as cash -- they may only be used to pay for food. However, the Electronic Benefits Transfer cards that allow people to access their SNAP benefits can also be used with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and families may withdraw the cash they receive through the TANF program using their EBT cards in some states, according to the USDA.
According to the USDA, introducing EBT cards created an electronic record that makes it very difficult to abuse the system. One percent of benefits were "trafficked," or exchanged for cash, in 2012, according to a USDA analysis cited by SnapToHealth.org.
SNAP benefits may only be used in authorized stores and may only be used to buy food that's meant to be eaten at home. Eighty-two percent of SNAP benefits were used at supermarkets and superstores in fiscal year 2012, and there were 3,214 farmers markets and farmers approved to take food stamps that year, according to the USDA.
Food stamps may only be used at restaurants in very specific circumstances -- specifically, when a SNAP recipient can't prepare food at home because they are disabled, elderly or homeless. Less than 1/10 of 1 percent of SNAP benefits used in fiscal year 2011 purchased food at restaurants. Additionally, there are no casinos or cruise ships that are authorized to accept food stamps, according to the USDA.