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SNAP Eligibility: General Requirements

General Eligibility Requirements
Eligibility for the District of Columbia (District) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is based on income, resources, and the number of individuals applying together as a household or may be based on the fact that you receive another type of assistance, such as Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI).  A household with an elderly or disabled person has different eligibility requirements.

SNAP Household
A household is everyone who lives together and purchases and prepares meals together as a group.  Spouses and most children under age 22 are automatically included in the same SNAP household even if they purchase and prepare meals separately.

SNAP Income Limits
In general, each SNAP household member’s income is counted together and compared to the income limits to determine eligibility.  Income includes money earned from a job or self-employment and money received from sources like the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) or retirement.

Households must meet both a gross and net monthly income limit for their household size (see Table 1 below).  Households with a person(s) age 60 years or older or a person with a disability only need to meet the net monthly income limit.

  • Gross income means a SNAP household’s total income before any deductions
  • Net income means a SNAP household’s total gross income minus allowable deductions

If the SNAP household receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash benefits, TANF non-cash benefits, or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), the SNAP household is considered categorically eligible for SNAP.  Categorical eligibility for SNAP means the household has already been determined eligible for another means-tested program.  Most District residents applying for SNAP are determined categorically eligible.

Table 1: SNAP Gross and Net Monthly Income Limits by Household Size

The below income limits are set by the Federal government and are subject to change each October 1. The gross monthly income limit is set at 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) and the net monthly income limit is set at 100 percent of the FPL.

Effective October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021

Household Size

Maximum Gross
Monthly Income
(130% FPL)

Maximum Net
Monthly Income
(100% FPL)

1

$1,383

$1,064

2

$1,868

$1,437

3

$2,353

$1,810

4

$2,839

$2,184

5

$3,324

$2,557

6

$3,809

$2,930

7

$4,295

$3,304

8

$4,780

$3,677

Each Additional Member

+$486

+$374

 

Deductions
To determine a SNAP household’s monthly net income, there are certain allowable deductions that are subtracted from the household’s gross monthly income. Some of the deduction amounts are set by the Federal government and are subject to change each October 1.

  • 20 percent deduction is applied to earned income (e.g., money from a job or self-employment).
  • A standard deduction is applied to all SNAP households.  The standard deduction is $167 for households with 1 to 3 individuals and $181 for households with 4 or more individuals (this may be higher for some larger households).
  • A dependent care deduction when needed for work, training, or education.
  • Legally owed child support payments.
  • Excess shelter costs that are more than half of the household’s income after all other deductions have been applied.  The excess shelter deduction is capped at $586 unless one person in the household is elderly or disabled. Each household receives a standard utility allowance deduction of $310, which is updated every October 1, to account for utility costs such as fuel, electricity, and water.  In addition to the standard, a household can claim the following allowable shelter costs:
    • Rent or mortgage payments and interest
    • Taxes on the home

Households with a person(s) age 60 years or older or a person with a disability can also deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses of more than $35. Payments made by insurance or someone else cannot be counted.

Resource Limits
Resources are things like bank accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit, and stock and bonds. Some things never count, such as the value of the home. Most District residents applying for SNAP are determined categorically eligible and do not have a limit on resources.

If you apply for SNAP, the District will review your information to determine if a resource limit applies.

For households that have a resource limit, households may have $2,250 in countable resources. If the household includes a person who is age 60 or older or a person who has a disability, the resources limit is $3,500.  Resource limits are set by the Federal government and are subject to change each October 1.

Certification Period
Households approved for SNAP are assigned a certification period.  The certification period is the length of time your household will receive benefits.  In some cases, a certification period may end early if there is a change in circumstances that makes the household ineligible (e.g., receiving an increase in earned or unearned income).

Most SNAP households will receive a 12-month certification period unless the household is experiencing homelessness in which case, the household will receive a 6-month certification period.  SNAP households in which all members are elderly and/or disabled will receive a 24-month certification period if there is no earned income. 

Throughout the certification period, households are required to report specific changes.  If the household wishes to continue receiving SNAP at the end of the certification period, the household will need to complete the recertification process.  Learn more about these ongoing eligibility requirements.