|Common Questions: Getting Food Stamps (SNAP) in Illinois||
Last updated: November 2013
When you are approved for SNAP benefits, you receive a LINK card (which looks like a credit card). On a certain day each month, your SNAP benefits are automatically put on the card. The head of household can then use the card at a grocery store to buy food. The LINK card works just like a credit card or ATM card.
If you receive cash benefits as well as SNAP benefits, your cash benefits will also be placed on the LINK card.
When you get a LINK card you should choose a personal identification number (PIN). The PIN is required when you use the card. You should never let anyone else know your PIN number.
If your card is lost or stolen, your benefits cannot be used unless the thief also knows your PIN number. You should never write your PIN number on your card, or on the sleeve that is given to you to keep your card from getting damaged. If it is written on the card, your food benefits (and your cash if you receive it) can easily be stolen. If that happens, the benefits will not be replaced by IDHS.
The SNAP allowance can be used to:
You cannot use SNAP benefits to buy:
If you break these rules, there are strict penalties (see "Intentional Program Violation").
To learn more about where you can use SNAP benefits to pay for food and what you can buy with SNAP benefits, see the information under "Related Articles."
Anyone who meets the income requirements can get SNAP benefits, but there are some exceptions. You cannot get SNAP benefits if:
If you are a legal immigrant you might qualify for benefits. To learn more, see the information on "Immigrant Eligibility for SNAP benefits" under "Related Articles."
Go to the Illinois Department of Human Services' SNAP calculator to see if you might be eligible for SNAP benefits and to get an idea of the amount of benefits you might receive.
You can get an application at Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) Online Application System.
You can also get an application at your local Department of Human Services (DHS) office.
- Mail the application to the DHS office
- Fax the application to the DHS office
- Take the application back to the DHS office
You have the right to go to any DHS office you choose.
A SNAP unit is the group of people who need to be provided with money to buy food. The size of the SNAP unit helps DHS determines how much money you should get. The unit can include one or more people. A SNAP unit can be:
Some Qualifying Members may be considered two separate SNAP units even though their food is bought and made with the other people they live with. Check with your local DHS office if you think this could apply to you.
You are a Qualifying Member for the SNAP program if you:
DHS has up to 30 days to process your application. You will get a letter telling you if you have or have not been approved to receive SNAP money. If you are approved, you will be told the amount of monthly SNAP allowance you will receive.
In some cases, you may need to get an answer sooner. You can apply for "expedited" SNAP benefits. Expedited SNAP benefits are a way to get food benefits faster.
For more information, see "How Can I Get Food Stamps Faster" under "Related Articles."
If you are denied benefits or you do not think you are getting the right amount of money, you have 90 days to file an appeal. You may also appeal if there is a delay processing your SNAP benefit or application.
For more information see "Appealing TANF, Food Stamps, or Medicaid Decisions" under "Related Articles."
The amount of money you can make and still get SNAP benefits depends on the size of your SNAP Unit, and whether anyone in your household is a Qualifying Member.
Illinois Department of Human Services uses your total income to determine if you are entitled to SNAP. Total, or gross, income is the amount of money you make from all sources before taxes are taken out of your pay. If you pay any child support, you can deduct (subtract) that from your gross income.
However, if anyone else in your household is a Qualifying Member, then your gross income does not matter.
You can view the monthly income allowance tables here on DHS online.
The SNAP program will look at your assets as well as your income. Assets are the "things" that you have. The SNAP program will look at two kinds of assets.
One type of assets the SNAP program will look at is “non-liquid assets.” This means that these assets would have to be sold to receive the money they are worth. Some common non-liquid assets are:
“Liquid assets” are:
Under the requirements for SNAP, you do not need to meet any asset limits unless one of the following is true:
Note: Some assets do not count at all toward the asset limit. These are called "exempt" assets. Common examples of exempt assets are the home that you live in, clothing, household furnishings, and one car.
You must include:
Sometimes you can increase the amount of SNAP money available to your SNAP Unit by making some simple changes such as:
Yes. There is no general work requirement until at least September 30, 2014. But, some people must do SNAP Employment and Training (this includes Cook County). Some healthy adults must do the Earnfare program (this is not in Cook County, but other Illinois counties). You could lose your benefits if you are required to participate in a program and you do not.
You need to report any change that could affect your SNAP eligibility or the amount of SNAP that you receive within 10 days of the date of the change.
For example, you must report:
To report changes in your SNAP unit, see "SNAP Program Change Report Form."
If you do not report a change that would have reduced or ended your participation in the SNAP program, you could be charged with an overpayment. Even worse, you could be charged with an Intentional Program Violation.
For more information, see "What Happens if I Have a SNAP Overpayment" under "Related Articles."
The amount of SNAP benefits that you will get depends on the number of people in your SNAP Unit, your income, and your expenses. You can get a general idea of what your SNAP level might be by completing the SNAP calculator. Please note this is simply a tool for you to use to figure out if you might be able to get SNAP benefits and how much you might get. It is not an application for SNAP benefits.
The chart below shows the highest amount of money your SNAP Unit can receive each month as of November 1, 2013:
Number of People in Household Maximum Monthly Food Stamp Amount
1 person $189
2 people $347
3 people $497
4 people $632
5 people $793
6 people $750
7 people $900
8 people $1,137
9 people $1,279
10 people $1,421
Add $142 for each additional member.
You should apply for "expedited" SNAP benefits. Expedited means that the person reviewing the application will look at it sooner than usual. If you are eligible for SNAP under this program, the benefits will be available to you no later than five calendar days after you apply for the benefits. A person can get expedited SNAP benefits in one of three ways:
For more information see "How Can I Get SNAP Benefits Faster" under "Related Articles."