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If you’re getting food stamps and you have student loans, we have some good news for you!
According to the USDA, student loan payments don’t count toward your income for the purpose of calculating food stamp eligibility. This means that if you have loans and are applying for food stamps, your student loan payments won’t be taken into consideration when determining whether or not you’re eligible for food stamps.
So how does this all work? Well, first off: let’s talk about what counts as income when it comes to determining whether or not you’re eligible for food stamps. Generally speaking, if you get money from someone else who is actually paying them directly (like a parent), rather than getting them indirectly through an institution like an employer or school, then this money would count as income when it comes time to determine your eligibility. Student loans are typically paid by your lender directly (or indirectly through an institution like a university) rather than by anyone else—so they don’t count as income when it comes time for the USDA to evaluate your application.
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Will My Student Loan Refund Affect My Food Stamps and My Daughter’s Medical Card?
If you receive assistance from a state welfare agency, it’s important that you follow their eligibility requirements. When you receive medical assistance, food stamps or other aid from the government in your state, you must have assets and an annual income that falls below a specific threshold. Unfortunately, if you have a higher amount of liquid assets or earn more money than is allowed, your benefits may be canceled.
If you have the opportunity to increase the annual earnings that you bring in or boost your portfolio assets, it’s important that you check the eligibility thresholds at your state welfare agency. You can do this by searching the internet for “food stamps” and “your state.” You may also want to search for listings in your city.
To be eligible for food stamps, you must not have a higher amount of liquid assets than is allowed. This may vary between states as it is often dependent on political policies and the costs associated with living in a certain area. For example, the eligibility threshold in California is going to be higher than a state like West Virginia as the cost of living in California is relatively higher than the latter state.
The eligibility requirements for liquid assets will also vary state-by-state. You will need to check with the welfare agency in your local area to determine which assets are considered to be “liquid.”
Student Loan Refunds
If you recently graduated or decided to drop out of school, you may be eligible for a student loan refund. The size of the refund will determine if you are still eligible for receiving assistance from the state for food stamps.
If you had a large number of credits that you didn’t use, you may be eligible for a refund that is as large as $1000. In this situation, it’s likely that your eligibility for food stamps will be affected.
If you do receive a student loan refund for unused credits, there may be a way that you can avoid reporting a portion of that income. After the refund is posted to the account at your bank, you may be able to utilize some of the funds by paying for clothing and food as these are necessities that you use every day. By utilizing cash to pay for these items, you may be able to claim a lesser amount of the refund that you receive when you complete an annual income statement for eligibility.
Can College Students Get Food Stamps?
Although the U.S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, around 13% of households in the country experienced food insecurity in 2015. A 2017 study in Annals of Anthropological Practice indicates that college students are significantly more likely to not know how they will get their next meal than the general population. About 59% of students reported facing food insecurity at some point during their time in college.
Despite the ubiquity of campus hunger, college students have been largely excluded from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Federal laws that made students attending college at least part-time ineligible sought to keep learners from harvesting public aid they didn’t really need. Due to the pandemic, however, those laws have been lifted.
In 2022, students continue to lose access to work and resources through campus shutdowns. Food stamp benefits, which are temporarily extended to college students, can help them stay afloat. Beginning in January 2021, independent college students, students eligible for federal work-study, and students whose expected family contribution (EFC) is zero on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) became eligible.
A proposed bill would continue to make benefits available to college students beyond the pandemic. The College Student Hunger Act of 2021, put forward in October, would lower the work requirement for students (from 20 hours to 10) and provide food stamps to all Pell Grant recipients as well as students whose families contribute no money according to their FAFSA. The bill would also establish a pilot program to test allowing students to use the funds for on-campus dining. Current SNAP rules prohibit benefits from being used to purchase prepared food or campus meal plans.
If passed, the bill would represent the most substantial federal action taken to counter college hunger in over two decades. Including recipients of federal Pell Grants alone would expand the pool of food-stamp-eligible students by 7 million.
How to Get Food Stamps as a College Student
SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, is paid through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that work like debit cards and can be used to buy food.
Every state has its own application form residents must fill out in order to receive SNAP benefits. Apply through the nearest SNAP office in your state of residence using the USDA national map. You can also call your state’s SNAP hotline number. Applicants receive notice of whether or not they are found eligible for benefits within 30 days.
If you are eligible, you will receive an EBT card and be notified of how long you may receive monthly benefits, known as a certification period. The amount of money loaded onto an EBT card for each month in the certification period varies based on income and expenses.
SNAP income and resource limits are updated annually. From Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022, a household of one may net up to $1,074 monthly (income after expenses) and receive up to $250 per month. (Allotments are different in Alaska and Hawaii.) During the pandemic, SNAP benefits may increase.
Cleaning supplies, paper products, and other household supplies
Hygiene items, cosmetics
What Students Qualify for Food Stamps?
Prior to the pandemic, most students enrolled in college at least part-time were not eligible for SNAP unless they met certain specific exemptions:
Under the age of 18 or over the age of 50
Not “physically or mentally fit”
Assigned to a school through the requirements of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Employed a minimum of 20 hours per week
Enrolled full-time as a single parent with a child under the age of 12
Enrolled as a parent with a child under the age of 6, or with a child aged 6-12 for whom childcare is not available
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 temporarily expanded student eligibility beginning January 16, 2021 through the end of the declared public health emergency. While the old rules restricted eligibility to students actively participating in state- or federally-funded work-study, the new rules include all students who are eligible for work-study.
The new rules also extend eligibility to students whose EFC is zero — their family does not supply any money for their education or living expenses as reported on the FAFSA. College students may show proof of eligibility under the temporary rules through their financial aid award letter, Student Aid Report, or a letter from their college (the same entity that decides work-study eligibility).
College hunger is a widespread issue, with reverberating consequences. Diminished performance in college can mean fewer career opportunities for the rest of one’s life. While more than half of students may go hungry at some point in their college careers, some student groups are at higher risk and, consequently, bear more of the continuing burdens.
Community college students, financially independent students, Pell Grant recipients, and student parents are all more likely than their peers to experience basic needs insecurity, including food insecurity.
Student loans do count as income for food stamps. If you have a student loan, you can use it to qualify for food stamps.
If you are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, you may be eligible for an increase in your benefits if you receive a student loan disbursement. You must be enrolled in or attending an institution of higher education at the time that your application is submitted.
You can apply for an increase in your SNAP benefits if you are a student who receives any type of disbursement from a federal, state, or private loan program during the month.