Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Read this in: Spanish / Español
Authored By: Oregon Law Center and Legal Aid Services of Oregon


1.  What is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program?

The SNAP program (formerly the Food Stamp Program) is a federal program to help low-income households maintain proper nutrition by giving them a means to purchase food.  Most SNAP households now receive Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. These cards are also known as Oregon Trail cards. These cards work like ATM or bankcards.  You will be given a PIN (Personal Identification Number) to access the funds in your food stamp account.

Some SNAP households in Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah and Washington counties are eligible to receive SNAP benefits by direct deposit into a bank account as an alternative to receiving SNAP by EBT.  This is available if everyone in the household is 65 or older or receives SSI.

OAR 461-165-0082

2.  Am I Eligible for SNAP Benefits?

You are eligible for SNAP benefits if you are a U.S. citizen and your income is modest or low.

3.  Am I Eligible for SNAP Benefits if I am Not a US CItizen?

If you are not a citizen, you might be able to receive SNAP benefits if you are a permanent resident, you entered the US lawfully, and you meet certain other requirements. Some lawful permanent residents can receive SNAP benefits immediately, while others may have to live in the US lawfully for five years before becoming eligible to receive SNAP benefits. Your immigration status at the time you entered the US will determine whether you are eligible for SNAP benefits immediately or whether you have to wait five years. Children under 18 years of age, and disabled adults who reside in the US lawfully are eligible for SNAP benefits without waiting five years. The non-citizen eligibility rules are very complicated. If you are a non-citizen and have questions about whether you are eligible for SNAP benefits, call the Public Benefits Hotline at 1-800-520-5292.

4.  Are There Financial Factors I Must Meet in Order to be Eligible for SNAP Benefits?

To get SNAP benefits there are two financial tests you must meet.

  • Resource Test.  Your total resources (checking accounts, savings accounts, stocks and bonds, equity in vehicles, real property, etc.) cannot be more than $2,000 per household.  If there is an individual who is 60 years or older or disabled, their resources cannot be over $3,250.   OAR 461-160-0015

Some people are “categorically eligible”.  That means that the resource and the income tests don’t apply to you.  You do not have to meet the income or resource test if you receive certain other public benefits such as TANF (or any benefit or service funded by TANF such as child care, JOBS benefits, TA-DVS), SSI, or if your countable income is less than 185% of the federal poverty rate and you have received the Information and Referral Services pamphlet from DHS.

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  •  Income Test.  You must meet the countable income (income before taxes are deducted from your check and after exclusions are deducted from your income) and adjusted income (income after deductions are taken) limits.  If there is someone over 60 or disabled or “categorically eligible” (on TANF or receiving services under TANF, SSI,  or has income that is less than 185% of the poverty level and has received a pamphlet about Information and Referral Services), then they only have to meet the adjusted income limit. OAR 461-135-0505; 461-160-0020; 461-160-0400; 461-160-0430

If you are self-employed, there is a special income test to determine your eligibility for SNAP benefits. If you have any qualifying

business expenses you will have 50% of your gross receipts excluded from your income to determine if you are eligible for SNAP benefits.

OAR 461-145-0920,461-145-0930

5.  How Much Will I Get in SNAP Benefits?

Your SNAP benefits will be based on your household or family size and income.  There are also deductions that you can get.  The deductions will reduce the income that will be counted for SNAP benefits (and increase your SNAP benefits).  The deductions that you may qualify for are:

(a)    dependent care costs;

(b)   for people who are 60 or over or disabled, medical and dental costs, including nursing care, attendants and housekeepers, assistance animal costs, medical transportation and lodging, medical insurance and co-payments, medications and medical supplies;

(c)    an earned income deduction if your income comes from working;

(d)   a standard deduction based on the number of people on your SNAP benefits grant;

(e)  child support payments that you pay for a child not in your household;

(f)  a shelter deduction for your housing and utilities.

OAR 461-160-0400; 461-160-0415; 461-160-0420; 461-160-0430

6.  How Do I Apply for SNAP Benefits?

  • If there are minor children in your household or you are an adult without a disability and you do not have children in your household, contact your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office.
  • If there are no minor children in the household, and you are elderly or disabled, contact the Aging and People with Disabilities Office.

The agency must issue your SNAP benefits within30 days from the date you submit your application providing you submit the necessary documents to them (i.e., utility bills, rental agreements, proof of income and citizenship, information on resources).  If you need SNAP benefits more quickly than that, you should apply for "expedited" SNAP benefits. When you first apply for SNAP benefits, and then once each year after that, you will have an interview in the office or by telephone.  This interview should be on the day that you apply for benefits.  If you cannot have an interview on that day, you can ask for a special appointment.  Your caseworker is required to interview you within 20 days from when you apply.

OAR 461-115-0210; 461-115-0230;Family Services Manual FS B 8

7.  What are the Other Eligibility Requirements for SNAP Benefits?

(1)        Students

If you are 18 or older but under 50 and you are a post-secondary student, and go to school at least half-time, you can only get SNAP benefits if:

  • You are not disabled, and you go to school at least half-time, and:
  • you are a student approved for state or federally-funded work-study job and you perform the work unless there’s no work-study work available; or
  • you work at least 20 hours per week including self-employment if the self-employment income is at least equal to federal minimum wage multiplied by 20 hours per week; or
  • you are a student responsible for the care of a child in your home and the child is under age 6 or age 6 through 11 and DHS determines that adequate child care is not available; or
  • you are a student who is a single adult with the responsibility of caring for a child under 12; or
  • you are student receiving TANF
  • you are a student who is physically or mentally unable to work and you go to school at least half-time; or
  • you are a student between 18 and 49 and enrolled in an institution of higher education less than half-time; or
  • you participate in an employment training activity through the Workforce Investment Act, a displaced workers program, JOBS, or employer sponsored on-the-job training;

OAR 461-135-0570

If you are a post-secondary student and do not fall into one of the categories listed above, you will not qualify for SNAP benefits.  For more information, call the Public Benefits Hotline (1-800-520-5292) or your local Legal Aid office for possible advice or representation.  Click here for a directory of legal aid programs.

(2)        Work Requirements

  • To be eligible and maintain eligibility for SNAP benefits, you must accept offers of employment, even if it is temporary or part-time;
  • You must also maintain employment by not voluntarily reducing your hours below 30 hours per week, not quitting your job within 30 days prior to your application (or any time you receive SNAP benefits), and by not being dismissed for striking while a federal, state, or county employee;
  • If you are not already working, you must lookfor a job or go to job search training classes, and accept job offers.

(3)        You do not have to participate in the OFSET Program (the SNAP work search program) if you:

  • have a disability that prevents you from working;
  • are participating in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program;
  • are pregnant or responsible for the care of a child under 6 years old or a disabled person;
  • are a student attending high school or a training program or institution of higher learning at least half time;
  • receive unemployment benefits or have applied for them and you are required to register for work through the Employment Department;
  • lack adequate child care, transportation or have another serious problem that prevents you from participating in the OFSET Program;
  • are in the TANF program.

OAR 461-130-0315, 461-135-0521, 461-190-0310

8.  What if I Apply and I am Denied SNAP Benefits?

If the Division denies your SNAP benefits application, they must send you a notice stating the reasons why.  If you feel the decision is incorrect, you have 90 days from the date of the notice to request a hearing.  In order to have a hearing, can just ask DHS for a hearing, but it is better to fill out and file a hearing request form.

To obtain this form go to your local DHS office and ask the receptionist for a DHS Form 443 (Administrative Hearing Request) or get it on the Internet.  (Go to

Immediately fill out the form and turn it back in to the receptionist.  Ask the receptionist for a receipt to prove you turned in the form.  To find out about your hearing rights, call the Public Benefits Hotline (1-800-520-5292) or your local Legal Aid office for possible advice or representation. Click here for a directory of legal aid programs. OAR 461-025-0310

9.  What if I Disagree with My SNAP Benefits Allotment?

You have a right to request that your worker show you how your SNAP benefits were calculated.  You are entitled to certain income deductions for earned income that you report, child care and child support that you pay, and shelter costs.  You should ask your worker to provide you with DHS Form 221 (SNAP Benefits Computation.)  This is a computer-generated form that will show you how the DHS arrived at the allotment.  Review this form carefully to determine that all information is correct and that you received the correct deductions.  If you find any errors, notify your worker immediately and request a hearing.

10.  How Do EBT (Oregon Trail) Cards Work?

When you are determined to be eligible for SNAP benefits, you will be sent an EBT card (also called an Oregon Trail Card).  The SNAP benefits payment you are eligible to receive will be held in an account for you that can only be accessed with your EBT/Oregon Trail Card using your PIN (Personal Identification Number).

When you buy groceries at major supermarket outlets (Safeway, Fred Meyer, etc.), the check stand computer will automatically separate your food items from your non-food items.  You will then slide your EBT/Oregon Trail card through the machine and enter your PIN.  The machine will subtract the total amount for the food items purchased from your SNAP benefits account.  You will need to keep track of how much you have left in your account.

Some smaller markets may still have to separate your food items from non-food items by hand, but they will still accept your EBT card.

11.  What if I Have a Problem with my EBT Card?

If you have problems with your PIN, accessing your funds, etc., you can call 1-888-997-4447 to discuss your problem.  If you have problems with the amount put into your account, refer to section 9 above regarding disagreement with your SNAP benefits allotment.

If you lose your EBT card, call 1-888-997-4447 right away to report that the card is lost. You will have to call another 800 number to get a new card issued. That card will have your remaining benefits on it. If someone uses your card and takes your benefits, DHS will not put the benefits back on the card, so it is important to safeguard your card and your PIN number.

12. What Changes Do I Have to Report to DHS?

Some changes must be reported when they happen. Other changes must be reported in the 6th month of your SNAP grant when you file your “Interim Change Report.” The changes that you must report depend on the reporting system you are in. You should ask your worker about your reporting requirements and make sure you understand them.

Most people are in the “Simplified Reporting System” and must only report a change in income that brings you over the income limit for the SNAP program. That must be reported by the 10th day after the month that your income goes up.

 But, there are some changes that you should report because it will help you to get more benefits. Your SNAP benefits are based on your income and certain expenses, so if your income goes down, or your countable expenses go up, you can get more SNAP benefits. The countable expenses that you should report are an increase in your housing expenses, or you start paying child support, or you have child care expenses. Of course, you should always tell DHS when you move so that DHS has a good address for you.

If you are in the Simplified Reporting System, in the 5th month of your SNAP eligibility period, DHS will send you an “Interim Change Report”. You must fill it out and send it to DHS in the 6th month of your eligibility period to keep your benefits going for the full 12 months. If you don’t file it in the 6th month, your benefits can be suspended or even ended, so it is important to file it by the last day of the 6th month.  If you file it earlier in the month, it will help DHS process your report on time.

OAR 461-170-0011, 461-170-0102

13.  Where Can I Get Information on Other Benefits Programs?

For more information, call the Public Benefits Hotline (1-800-520-5292) or go to for a directory of benefits programs.


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Last Review and Update: Aug 23, 2013
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