Good news for my Pennsylvania friends!
On October 1, 2022, the state expanded eligibility for food stamps.
That’s a really good thing, because here in Pennsylvania, I find myself paying more than double for groceries compared to what I was spending before the pandemic. I know we’re all facing this same issue.
Today, we’ll get into changes to Pennsylvania’s SNAP program along with some of the extra savings programs you qualify for once you’ve got your EBT card.
Expanded SNAP Income Eligibility Guidelines in Pennsylvania
As of October 1, 2022, Pennsyvlania has expanded food stamp eligibility from 130% of Federal Poverty Income Guidlines (FPIG) to 200% of FPIG.
That means income limits are now:
- 1 person household: $2,266 per month
- 2 person household: $3,052 per month
- 3 person household: $3,840 per month
- 4 person household: $4,626 per month
- 5 person household: $5,412 per month
- 6 person household: $6,200 per month
- 7 person household: $6,986 per month
- 8 person household: $7,772 per month
- 9 person household: $8,560 per month
- 10 person household: $9,348 per month
Have a bigger household? Add $788 for each additional household member.
Income deductions for households with disabled or elderly people
If someone in your house is disabled or elderly (age 60+,) you can deduct certain expenses from your income in order to qualify.
Here are some of the expenses you may be able to deduct:
- Standard deduction: Everyone should qualify for this one. It’s based on your household size. Households of 1 – 4 people get a standard deduction of $193; households of 5 people get a deduction of $225; households with 6 or more people get a deduction of $258.
- Earned income deduction: You can deduct 20% of your gross monthly income from employment.
- Excess medical deduction: If the elderly or disabled person in your household has medical expenses of more than $35, you can deduct it from the household monthly income for eligibility purposes. You can deduct almost anything — including dental expenses — except for special dietary expenses. Here’s which expenses count and how to calculate them.
- Dependent care deduction: If you pay for childcare, or dependent care for a disabled person of any age, you can usually deduct them from your monthly income numbers. You can only do this if you’re paying someone outside of your household, and only if you need that care in order to work, get job training, or pursue your education.
- Shelter and utility deduction: If your shelter and utility expenses combined are more than 50% of your income, you can deduct all of them when you have a disabled or elderly person in your home.
There is a catch: If you don’t naturally qualify because your income is more than 200% of FPIG, you can take these deductions if you have an elderly or disabled person in your home.
But the deductions will need to get you under 100% of FPIG in order to qualify.
New SNAP Asset Test Limits in Pennsylvania
Qualify for SNAP benefits because your household income is under 200% of FPIG?
There’s currently no asset test for you in Pennsylvania.
Asset tests for households with disabled or elderly people
Of course there’s gonna be an asset test for households with disabled or elderly people that need to use deductions to get under 100% of FPIG.
It wouldn’t be America if there weren’t additional undue burdens on already marginalized households.
The only good news on this front is that the asset test went up. Before, your countable assets could only add up to $3,750 before you were disqualified from SNAP.
But as of October 1, 2022, the asset test is now $4,250.
Use an ABLE account to shelter your assets
ABLE Accounts for the Disability Community
If the disabled person in your household was disabled before their 26th birthday, they’re eligible to open an ABLE account.
Even if they’re 47 today.
NOTE: There is currently legislation moving through Congress that would up the age of onset for ABLE eligibility. This would double the number of Americans eligible for ABLE accounts. Here’s how you can help support passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act.
An ABLE account is a 529 account that can be used to pay not just for educational expenses, but any expenses related to the disabled person themselves.
When you keep money in an ABLE account, it is sheltered from asset tests, allowing you to qualify for programs like SNAP even if you have up to $100,000 in the account.
You can open a Pennsylvania ABLE account here.
ABLE accounts are usable in all 50 states. But Pennsylvania’s comes with some tax advantages for Pennsylvania residents.
On your state income taxes, you’ll be able to deduct all contributions to an ABLE account from your taxable income.
Max contributions for 2022 are set at $16,000, but can be higher if the disabled person qualifies for ABLE to Work.
For now, you can also use ABLE contributions to qualify for the Saver’s Credit on your federal income taxes.
FUN FACT: Pennsylvania is currently only one of two states that allow you to deduct 100% of your ABLE contributions on your state taxes. The other state is Mississippi.
How to apply for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania
Okay, so you’re newly eligible for food stamps.
But how do you apply?
You’ll do so using the COMPASS website.
I’m not going to lie to you. The COMPASS website is glitchy. You should plan to spend about 30 to 45 minutes on your application, and you might have to log in multiple times as the site regularly kicks users out mid-application.
The good news is that if you’re logged into your account, it should save your application so you can pick up right where you left off when you log in again.
At the completion of your application, you’ll be given an option to ‘View required documents.’ Technically, there are certain households that are protected from having to provide all this extra paperwork.
But in my experience with welfare offices, it’s good to provide that paperwork, anyways. It’ll help the process go smoother and more quickly. It takes less time than trying to figure out if you’re one of the households that isn’t required to provide documentation.
There will also be a separate button that will allow you to upload that paperwork. You might as well do it right as you’re applying — putting it off means you might miss a deadline.
The paperwork you’ll be asked for will vary depending on your personal situation. But some examples of things you might be asked for include:
- Image of your drivers license.
- Income documentation. That might be your most recent W2s, or — if you’re self-employed — your most recent 1040 or business income records.
- Proof of disability. (They might already have this if the disabled person is on Medicaid.)
- Rental agreement.
- Bank account information.
- Medical bills from the past 90 days.
Other savings that open up after you have SNAP
Supposedly, DPW is going to be qualifying people for SNAP in as little as 5 days.
I’ll believe that when I see it. But it’s a nice goal.
After you get approved for SNAP benefits, there are several other programs you’ll automatically qualify for.
These programs can save you money across a ton of areas, whether we’re talking about your internet bill, taking your kids to different cultural events in your city, or even maintaining your Amazon Prime membership.
Get $30 off your internet bill every single month
How to Get $30 (or more!) Off Your Internet Bill
The first program you should look at if you’re on SNAP is the Affordable Connectivity Program.
The income limits for this program are now very similar to Pennsylvania’s food stamp eligibility guidelines. But being on SNAP first makes the application process so much easier.
That’s because if you’re on SNAP, you qualify automatically. The application can take just a few minutes as you won’t have to answer as many questions when you’re already on SNAP.
This program gives you $30 off your internet bill every month, or $75 if you live on Tribal Lands.
The ACP has a ridiculously quick turnaround for a government program. You’re likely to see the discount on your actual internet bill in as little as 24 to 48 hours after filling out your application.
Get discount admission to attractions across the state
When you get on SNAP, you’ll be issued an ACCESS card.
ACCESS cards are pretty great because they get you discount admission to a ton of cultural sites and attractions across the state.
Here are a bunch of places you can get discounts if you’re in Eastern PA.
Tip for Philly People: I highly do not recommend applying for the Art ACCESS card unless you’ve already filled out a comprehensive application with COMPASS for all potential programs and been denied. If you’re disabled, there’s a strong chance you qualify for a regular ACCESS card for F-R-E-E. The Art ACCESS card comes with a not-inexpensive fee.
In Pittsburgh, here are a bunch of places that will give you discounted admission:
- Children’s Museum: Regularly $16 – $18 per person; ACCESS admission only $2 per person.
- Carnegie Science Center: Regularly $12 – $20 per person; ACCESS admission only $3 per person.
- Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History: Regularly $12 – $20 per person; ACCESS admission only $2 per person.
- Andy Warhol Museum: Regularly $10 – $20 per person; ACCESS admission only $1 per person.
- Mattress Factory: Regularly $10 – 20 per person; ACCESS admission only $2 per person.
- Phipps Conservatory: Regularly $11.95 – $19.95 per person; ACCESS admission only $3 per person.
There are tons of others, too. I’ll have to write an article for you all covering the ACCESS discount in Pittsburgh sometime soon.
Another way you can search for some of these locations across the country is through Museums for All. Though these discounts are certainly not limited to museums, depending on which part of the country or state you’re in.
Get a discount on your Amazon Prime membership
Did you know people with EBT cards get a discount on their Amazon Prime membership?
It’s true! Amazon raised its Prime membership prices to $14.99 per month this year. Alternatively, you can choose to pay for an entire year at once for $139.
However, if you’ve got an EBT card like the one you’ll get for SNAP benefits, you can get your membership for just $6.99 per month. That’s a discount of more than 50%.
You can apply for the discount here.
Get curbside groceries
COVID-19 transmission map for Sept 21 – 27, 2022 via the CDC.
In 2020, there were serious problems with people getting curbside orders using SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania. There were state and local laws prohibiting it.
However, in the time since, both the state and many municipalities have lifted these restrictions.
Because those laws were discriminatory.
They inherently put lower- and middle-income people who received SNAP benefits at higher risk of catching COVID.
So now in all areas of the state that I’m aware of, you can get curbside orders using SNAP. If your municipality won’t let you, try hopping over to the next municipality.
Not all stores make SNAP checkout easy, though.
For example, Giant Eagle makes it super easy to check out with SNAP benefits. You can do so within the app or on the website.
Not so much.
You could go inside Target to use your EBT card.
But you could also opt to protect your health by simply shopping with another store that does make using SNAP to pay easy within their app or on the website itself.