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Written by Jenn Cosgrove


How To Get Food Stamps in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania residents who are having difficulties affording groceries (at GCN, we know that as much as we try to coupon, we sometimes still can't afford groceries, especially if we've been laid off or can't find work) can receive federal aid through their state welfare agencies.

SNAP (which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are benefits that are used to purchase food items for individuals and families with low incomes.

Pennsylvania's Food Assistance Program Requirements

If you're a Pennsylvania resident, the qualifications for this program requires that you meet one of these two groups:

  1. Those whose current bank account balance, including checking and savings, are under the $2,001 mark
  2. Those whose current bank account balance, including checking and savings, are under the $3,001 mark who share their home with a person or persons age 60 and over, or with a person with a disability; a child, your spouse, a parent, or yourself.

If you fall into either of these groups, you must also have an annual household income as follows:

  • less than $14,079 if one person lives in the household
  • $18,941 if two people live in the household
  • $23,803 if three people live in the household
  • $28,665 if four people live in the household
  • $33,527 if five people live in the household
  • $38,389 if six people live in the household
  • $43,251 if seven people live in the household
  • $48,113 if eight people live in the household
  • For larger families, add $4,862 for each additional person in the home

Documents that show you've met this criteria will be needed in order to prove that you're eligibility for assistance (tax docs, paychecks, etc.).

Who can apply for the food stamps?:

  • The head of the household;
  • The spouse of the head of household;
  • Any other responsible household member; or
  • A designated authorized representative, who can be a friend, relative, neighbor, or anyone else the applicant trusts to go food shopping and use his/her SNAP benefits.

Work Requirements

Those between the ages of 16 and 60, who are mentally and physically capable, must be registered for employment in order to receive benefits.

If there are work training programs available, they must participate and if offered, must take offers for employment that are acceptable.

For those between the ages of 18 and 50 with no dependants, the period for available benefits is limited to 3 months.


PA SNAP Application Information

The online application can be filled out by any member of the household. Your county office will date-stamp your application so that if your household becomes eligible during the month of application, your SNAP benefits will be paid retroactively.

Be sure to fill out the application fully and to the best of your knowledge. Then, gather all the documents you need to prove your eligibility. These documents are:

  1. Personal ID, such as a U.S. passport, or any other state-issued ID document that lists your name and address on it.
  2. Documents proving income, such as a bank statement, indicating your financial activity during the previous month.
  3. Documentation of your assets; such as stocks and bonds, savings accounts or mortgage documentation.

The process as fairly quick and only requires these three steps:

  1. An application form must be filled out completely and turned into your local county assistance office, or through it's website.
  2. Next, an interview will be set up, typically this is done over the phone, where you can discuss your needs and provide any information that might have been missed on your online application.
  3. Finally, gather together all documents required for assistance to determine the amount of benefits you and your family may receive.

PA Online Application

The most convenient way is to apply online, via the COMPASS website.

This application form is used to enroll in the SNAP program and also any other programs funded by Pennsylvania which you may qualify for, including medical or cash assistance.

Whether you're from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie; all cities in the state are covered under the Access EBT card.


What You Can Buy With Pennsylvania Food Stamps

Those recipients eligible for assistance will receive a Pennsylvania Access Card and select a personal identification number (PIN) to access authorized benefits.

Upon purchase of your groceries, simply swipe your EBT Access Card through the credit card terminal and enter your PIN. Here are three important notes:

  1. With the PA EBT card, you can't get cash back
  2. You ARE able to use store coupons along with your food stamp card
  3. Be sure to hold on to your receipt as it indicates your remaining balance

You can use SNAP benefits to buy:

  • Edible foods for the household, such as:
  • breads and cereals
  • fruits and vegetables
  • meats, fish and poultry
  • dairy products

You cannot use SNAP benefits to buy:

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

For specific questions concerning the Pennsylvania Food Stamp program, contact the experts at the Welfare Helpline at 800-692-7462 or 800-451-5886 (TDD).


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