That is not to say I don't have criticism of the program.
Contrary to the image, food stamps are not made of food and they are not stamps. Food Stamps are rather a government allotment on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card similar to a credit or debit card, used solely to purchase food. Nothing else can be purchased with them, certainly not cigarettes and alcohol, also no soap, dish detergent, clothes detergent, cold remedies, pain relievers, or toilet paper. One can, if one is of the notion, purchase food plants or seeds and dirt to attempt to grow food. One may not purchase already made food such as that served in a restaurant, unless one is homeless, a senior or disabled. Only certain restaurants, soup kitchen and meal delivery programs are included. One can purchase deli meat and other delights from behind the deli counter which resides in most major grocery stores.
Food stamps did indeed used to be stamps. Started in 1939 , families "on relief" or public assistance could purchase food stamps. They came in colors, orange and blue. Orange stamps cost $1, and for every $1 spent on orange stamps, recipients were given 50 cents in blue stamps. Food stamps disappeared in 1943 for a commodity program, and were re-established in 1961. Stamps stopped being a purchase entitlement for low income families, and looked more like coupons, in 1977 . In 1997 , electronic transfer cards became mandatory for all states, to be implemented by 2002 (Such is government). Income limits to receive food stamps have changed over the years (In Illinois, the current limit for a family of four is $297 per month, with food stamps allotment of $220 per month the average). Current maximum benefit for a family of four is $490 a month (That's a lot of food). USDA is trying to call the program SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Program. It isn't working too well. People and some states still call them food stamps.
Food stamps are not the same as WIC. Food stamp entitlement is based on income. Food stamps allow the entitlees to pick and choose among the offerings of the supermarket. WIC is not only based on income, but on a voucher system tailored to pregnant and nursing mothers, and children under 5. One can go to the store and buy any brand of peanut butter with food stamps, or almond butter, or walnut butter, or even just butter. If the WIC voucher mandates peanut butter, there will not only be the amount of jars of peanut butter clearly listed on the voucher, but the brand will be limited to those approved by the Department of Agriculture. That would be the same method for the other offerings of WIC, including but not limited to eggs, milk, grain cereals, cheese, and 100% juice. WIC also involves well baby and child health care arrangements.
Food stamps have more possibilities. In Illinois, it is perfectly all right to purchase the following items with food stamps, although these items might not be healthy in mass quantities:
- Soda pop.
- Designer ice cream.
- Birthday cake, or any rich, large cake (You go, Sara Lee!).
- Candy or all types.
- Kool Aid.
- Those little jugs of flavored water with tons of sugar that masquerade as juice.
- Potato chips.
- Gummy bears.
- Pork rinds.
The nice thing about food stamps everywhere: All food stamp purchases are exempt from sales tax. Good deal! The bad thing about food stamps: No dog or cat food, no laundry detergent, no toilet paper, no dish detergent, opportunity to buy lots of junk food and cause health issues. The nonpurchase of cleaning products can cause some angst among those who are having a very difficult time just getting food. No doubt the money saved on food purchases can be applied to cleanliness. However, silly little luxuries such as lights, a basic phone, and rent can get in the way of cleanliness.
What's this have to do with the retread parent?
The odds are very good your grandchildren already have a department of human services case worker, and are receiving food stamps. If they are receiving food stamps, they might also receive CHP health insurance from your state, and your dear adult child may even receive TANF if there's no child support. Your grandkids have a record in DHS!
So, when you go to DHS, have the case worker run their names, and if you happen to know them, their social security numbers (old tax returns- and we will cover claiming the grandkids in the next entry). If the kids receive nothing from DHS, it was only a brief check of information. If they do, then certain things will happen.
For one, if you have the kids, the adult child will no longer be able to claim the kids as part of his or her food stamp unit. If you qualify for food stamps with the kids in your household, they will become part of your food stamp unit, which is everybody who shares the same kitchen and eats together. Don't be surprised if this is a reality, that you are now eligible for food stamps when you weren't before the kids arrived. You have more mouths to feed on less money. Take the EBT card, and use it wisely, just as you would if you were in the supermarket using cash.
The adult child's TANF will also be diverted to you at this point. You will receive a medical card for the kids the next month. You will get a letter that entitles the school-aged children to free lunch. You will get a paper record with the children's social security numbers, and possibly your adult child number as well.
This will save you a lot of time. When you go to the attorney or advocate, you will have social security numbers. You will not have to sit in the Social Security Office, listening to the horrible video about applying for a social security card over and over again. You will not go to the window, only to be told that you have nothing to establish anything or that you need more documents and come back when you have them.
If you have had the kids for 6 months and 1 day, you qualify to claim them on your income tax this year. You'll need their social security numbers for that. You'll want to get that tax return in ASAP, to beat your adult child to it, for one, as the IRS might question why you both claimed them. You'll also be entitled to an Earned Income Credit if you earned any income.
But most importantly you will, right after approval, have a little more purchasing power when you go to the grocery store. The EBT card that holds your electronic food stamps is just like an ATM card. Angel Food, SHARE and Golden Share all take EBT cards. In some instances, your adult child and/ or the other parent of the children will be held responsible for repaying the food stamps, the TANF and the health insurance. So enjoy your trip to the grocery store, and buy the kids a 6-pack of candy bars, just this once.
If you're unsure about how to apply for food stamps in your state, follow the link:
MA http://www.mass.gov/%20pageID=eohhs2agencylanding&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Government&L2=Departments+and+Divisions&L3=Department+of+Transitional+Assistance&sid=Eeohhs2MI http://www.michigan.gov/dhs/0,1607,7-124-5453_5527-21832--,00.html
MN http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&dDocName=id_002555&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleasedMS http://www.mdhs.state.ms.us/ea_fs.html
AND FOR NEW YORK CITY http://www.nyc.gov/html/hra/html/family_independence/foodstamps_and_foodprograms.shtmlNC http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dss/foodstamp/index.htm
SNAP program http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsp/faqs.htm