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SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) (Food Stamps) was mentioned by an anonymous poster, bugek, as a program that, a responsible family could use to easily feed a family of 4 with their $649/month in benefits, even leaving a surplus of $85. He supplied a list of groceries to prove his point, without any backup showing the prices or store used and added “there IS NO grocery list which cannot adequately feed a family a four for 95% of people and stay close to the SNAP limits.”

As a result family’s receiving SNAP would have no need of a summer children’s food program.

There’s a big problem with his calculations – mainly his research stopped at the surface. I don’t agree with his statements regardless but want to counter his argument with a look at how the SNAP program actually works. For those who do not want to read through my analysis, here’s the gist of it.

SNAP maximum benefits are not determined by just the maximum income limit for a family’s size listed on the program’s website. The benefits require computations, like tax returns, to determine the specific amount and are usually much less than the maximum. That family of four more likely receives ~$249/month in SNAP benefits.

To receive SNAP benefits, that family of 4 MUST have a combined income at or below $2,633/month gross or $2,025/month net after deductions. (See below)
They must meet BOTH the gross and the net income guidelines to qualify.

Not counted as resources that disqualify them.
$2,250 in countable income such as in a bank account
A vehicle if the household has $1500 or less in equity or the vehicle is their home.
If the fair market value of a vehicle is over $4650 the overage it is counted as a resource.

OK, let’s just assume the family of 4 earns the maximum allowable gross income of $2,633/month before income deductions.

To determine if the net income qualifies deductions must be subtracted from the gross.
Subtract 20% of earned income of $2,633 (assuming no income from other sources)
$2,633 x .20 = $527
$2,633 – $527 = $2,106.

Subtract standard deduction of $168 for family of 4 from above.
$2,106 – $168 = $1,938

Subtract child care deduction of ~$250 (to stay on the low side)
$1,938 – $250 = $1,688 – this is the. adjusted income

Excess shelter deduction if shelter is over 1/2 adjusted income
$1,688 (adjusted income) ./. 2 = $844 (half of adjusted income)

Deduction subtracted depends on cost of fuel to heat and cook with, electricity, water, the basic fee for one telephone, rent but no more than $517 a low number for Newton.

Let’s say their total shelter costs are $1,200.

Subtract half of adjusted income from total shelter cost.
$1,200 (total shelter) – $844 (half adjusted income) = $356 (excess shelter cost)

Subtract excess shelter cost from adjusted income.
$1,688 (adjusted income) – $356 (excess shelter cost) = $1,332 (net monthly income)

Finally we get to the calculation of SNAP benefits.
The amount of benefit the household receives is called an allotment. The net monthly income of the household is multiplied by .3, and the result is subtracted from the maximum allotment for the household size to find the household’s allotment. This is because SNAP households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their income on food.

$1,332 (net monthly income) x .3 = $400

Subtract .3 of monthly net income from maximum allotment.
$649 (family of 4 monthly maximum SNAP allotment) – $400 (.3 of net monthly income) = $249 SNAP monthly allotment

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