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Can You Get Food Stamps When Collecting Unemployment?

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If you receive unemployment benefits but still have problems making ends meet, there are other social welfare programs that can help you, including food stamps. Food stamps provide you and your family with funds to buy food, and in many areas participation in the food stamp program can make you eligible for other benefits, such as help with paying your utility bills.

Unemployment Insurance

If you lose your job, unemployment insurance can help you pay the bills while you look for new work. Unemployment isn't welfare: Your previous employer or employers paid into the unemployment system through payroll taxes to insure your benefits. State agencies administer unemployment insurance programs, and while there are federal laws that regulate unemployment benefits, each state also has its own policies on awarding and distributing benefits.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps)

Food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), though some states have a different name for it, is a federal program that provides beneficiaries with funds for food. Like unemployment, individual state agencies manage the food stamp program for residents of their state. If you qualify for food stamps, your food stamp agency issues you a debit card loaded with funds that you can use only for purchasing food at a participating store or farmer's market.

Qualifying for Food Stamps

To qualify for food stamps in your state, you must meet your state's income, financial resources and family size qualifications. If your income, including unemployment benefits, is under the qualifying threshold, you can get food stamp benefits.

Unemployment Qualifications

Your initial eligibility for unemployment benefits depends on your work record and involuntary unemployment, not whether you have other sources of income or support. Receiving food stamps won't jeopardize your unemployment benefits, as food stamps are not wages. However, if your unemployment benefits are high enough, they may either disqualify you from receiving food stamps or may reduce the amount of food stamps that you can get each month.

Work Requirements

Federal law limits the amount of time that an able-bodied adult can receive food stamps during a 36-month period. In many cases, adults who get food stamps must either work or participate in a job training program, though some states with high unemployment suspend this requirement. Both taking a job, even a minimum-wage job, and participating in a training program can affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits. If you live in a state that requires you to meet work or training requirements to receive food stamps, contact your local unemployment office and explain your situation. They can let you know if participating in a food stamp work or training program is going disqualify you from receiving unemployment.


Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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