Statutes and regulations
What are SNAP benefits?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is federally funded and administered by the states. Applications for SNAP benefits are made at local Department of Human Services (DHS) offices and certain other outreach locations. Applications can also be filed online and by phone.
Using SNAP benefits: the Link system
The Link system replaced benefits checks and food stamps with an ATM type card. Instead of a check or food stamp coupons, recipients get a "Link" card that looks like an ATM or credit card. Each month cash and/or SNAP benefits are credited to the recipient’s account and issued to the Link card. Only one Link card is issued to a case. Once an application is approved, the Link card is mailed to a customer's home address by the Centralized Link Line. Once the head of the SNAP household receives the card, they will be instructed to call and set up the card with a four digit personal identification number (PIN). Recipients can use the LINK card at store Point of Sale terminals (POS terminals), which scan the card and deduct the amount of the purchase from the recipient’s account. SNAP benefits are distinct from cash benefits in the recipient’s account. SNAP benefits can only be used for food purchases. Recipients cannot cash in SNAP benefits.
SNAP benefits can be used to buy:
- Any food or food product for human consumption
- Seeds and plants for use in home gardens to produce food
SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:
- Hot foods ready to eat
- Food intended to be heated in the store
- Lunch counter items or foods to be eaten in the store
- Vitamins or medicines
- Pet foods
- Any nonfood items (excepts seeds and plants)
- Alcoholic beverages
If the Link system is down or a store's Link terminal is not working, vendors can have a recipient sign a voucher for the amount of purchase. For a voucher, however, the vendor has to call a central number to determine whether the recipient has sufficient funds to cover the purchase. A freeze is then placed on the account for the amount of the purchase. There is a $150 limit per voucher transaction. The recipient should keep a copy of the voucher for their records.
Recipients can obtain their account balance information on the Illinois Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Link Card website or by calling the Illinois Link Helpline at 1-800-678-5465 (LINK). SNAP benefits cannot be checked through an ATM. However, cash benefits for the same family will be administered on the same LINK card. Cash benefits can be checked on an ATM but there are rules and fees associated with ATM use. Through the online portal or Link hotline, recipients are able to do the following for free:
- Check LINK account balance
- Report a lost or stolen card
- Order a replacement LINK card
- Select or change a PIN number
- Check recent purchases or withdrawals for cash benefits
- Report a problem with a purchase or withdrawal
In order to access an account, a recipient will need the 9-digit social security number and date of birth associated with the account and the 16-digit or 19-digit number printed on the front of the household’s Link card, or the 4-digit PIN. The social security number and date of birth are usually for the primary card holder, but may be for someone else in the case.
Recipients who lose or damage their Link cards must call the Illinois Link Line to request a replacement card. The card will be mailed to their address. Their account will be frozen when the card is reported lost. When they receive the new card, they will be given instructions on how to call the Link Line to select their PIN number and reactivate the account. If a recipient loses or forgets their PIN number, they can get a new PIN by calling the Illinois Link Helpline (1-800-678-5465).
Occasionally, benefits are expunged. For canceled cases, the account(s) remain open until:
- All benefits are used or
- The account, cash or SNAP benefits, has no withdrawal for 365 days.
For active cases, the account will be expunged if it is not accessed for 365 days.
Expunged benefits are no longer available to the recipient. If there is an outstanding overpayment claim against the recipient, the amount of benefits expunged will be credited toward the claim. Cash benefits will be credited for a cash overpayment; SNAP benefits will be credited for a SNAP overpayment.
Applications are now available online through the Application for Benefits Eligibility (ABE) or by phone at 1-800-843-6154. The online application allows a household to submit a single application for multiple programs—SNAP, cash, and medical—as well as upload and submit verification documents. The application can then be tracked using a tracking number provided when the application is submitted.
Applications may be made by an authorized representative who has been designated by the applicant. If the applicant indicates on the application that an approved representative is applying on his or her behalf, the applicant will be directed to this approval page to supply more information about their approved representative and will then provide an electronic signature.
Note: approved representatives receive copies of all correspondence related to the person's application and case and must continue to represent the individual until that status is revoked. Approved representatives are also bound by federal and state law regarding conflict of interest and privacy and confidentiality of applicant information.
Application forms are also available at the local DHS office, and must be provided upon request, without an appointment. A household may apply at any IDHS office. Persons can call and request that a SNAP application be sent to them by mail. They can return the application by mail or by fax.
Applicants have the right to file their applications the day they first contact the DHS office. A partially complete application (name, address, and signature of an adult member of the household) is sufficient, both online and in-person, to trigger the deadlines for processing, but benefits cannot be approved until the application is completed in its entirety.
After an application is filed intake staff will set-up an intake interview and request the applicant to bring in several items, including proof of income and expenses, to verify the household’s eligibility for SNAP benefits. If the original application is submitted online, verification can be, but is not required to be, submitted via ABE. If, without good cause, the applicant does not return the information within the time frame required, the application may be denied. DHS staff must assist applicants to obtain verification. Applicants can also request additional time to obtain verifications.
DHS has 30 days from the date an application is filed to approve or deny the application, and if approved, benefits must be available on the 30th day after application. The intake interview should be scheduled within 14 days of the application filing date. Interviews will either be in-person or over-the-phone. Applicants can indicate their interview preference, in-person or over-the-phone on their initial application. For expedited SNAP benefits, see below.
Expedited SNAP benefits
All SNAP applications must be screened by DHS to determine whether the applicant qualifies for expedited benefit processing. Expedited benefits must be available within 7 calendar days. A household that qualifies for expedited processing should be given a Link card at the DHS Office.
The eligibility criteria for expedited SNAP Benefits are:
- $100 or less in liquid resources (cash, bank accounts, etc), and $150 or less in monthly income;
- Monthly rent/mortgage and applicable utility standard are greater than monthly income and liquid resources combined; and
- At least one person in your household is a migrant farm worker and your liquid resources (cash, bank accounts, etc.) are less than $100.
The intake interview for persons who may qualify for expedited SNAP benefits must be scheduled the day of application or the following day.
Non-financial factors of eligibility
Many changes were made in the Food Stamp program by the Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Although the Food Stamp program was retained as a federal entitlement program, states have many options in administering it.
To qualify for SNAP, a person must be a US citizen or must have a specific type of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) status.
Persons temporarily in the US such as diplomats, students, tourists and vistors do not qualify for SNAP benefits. The main categories of eligible and ineligible non-citizens are:
|Eligible non-citizens||Ineligible non-citizens|
Parents who do not qualify for benefits because of their immigration status, but have children who do, can apply for benefits for their children. Parents who are applying for benefits on behalf of their children are required to report their income but do not have to report their immigration status. The online application will ask which members of the household are requesting benefits; anyone who does not wish to report their status should uncheck their name in this section.
Eligibility for SNAP is determined by household composition. A household is defined as persons living alone or a group of people living together who customarily purchase and prepare their meals together. A household must apply for SNAP Benefits as one unit.
Certain family members living together must be included in a household for purposes of determining eligibility. All parents and children under age 22 living under one roof must be considered one household (unless they live in separate apartments and only share a common entry way), even if the children are married or have children of their own.
The household will select any adult parent of a child in the household as the head of household if all adult household members making application agree to the selection. The household can make this designation each time the household is certified for participation. This designation cannot change within a certification period unless there is a change in the composition of the household. Elderly persons age 60 and over (and spouses) unable to purchase and prepare their own meals because of a permanent disability can apply for SNAP as a separate household even though they are living and eating with others, provided that the gross income of persons who live (excluding the spouse) with them does not exceed 165% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Roomers and boarders are not considered as part of a household if they pay a reasonable compensation for their room and board.
Persons residing in shelters or in residential drug rehabilitation programs may qualify for separate household status.
Students between the ages of 18 and 50 enrolled in an institute of higher education at least half-time are eligible for SNAP only if they meet an exemption.
An institute of higher education is defined as a business, technical, trade or vocational school that normally requires a high school diploma or the equivalent for enrollment in the course of study; or regular courses, including internet, mail, self-study, or correspondence courses, at an accredited college or university that offers degree programs. A course is considered a regular course if it would count toward a degree or certificate but the student does not have to be in a degree or certificate program. A college or university student enrolled only in literacy, adult basic education, GED or English as a second language program is not considered to be a student under this rule.
The eligible student exemption begins the month the school term begins or the month the state or federal work-study is approved, whichever is later. The exemption continues through the end of the month the school term ends or the student refuses an assignment.
In order to be eligible for SNAP, a student must be:
- Under age 18 or age 50 or over;
- Physically or mentally impaired;
- Working in a paid job an average of 20 hours per week or, if self-employed, working an average of 20 hours per week and earning at least the federal minimum wage;
- Approved to participate in a state or federal work-study program for the school term and expecting to work in a state or federal work-study program during that time;
- Receiving TANF benefits;
- Responsible for the care of a unit member under age 6, but only one adult may claim this exemption; when there is more than one adult in the home, the student must provide the majority of child care to meet this requirement;
- Responsible for the care of a unit member age 6 through 11, and does not have adequate child care available to allow the student to attend class and work an average of 20 hours per week or take part in a work-study program;
- NOTE: Child care is adequate and the student is ineligible when:
- the child(ren) is receiving child care at least 24 hours per week, and time spent in school does not count as child care; and
- there is someone in the SNAP unit age 18 or older, other than the student, who is available to provide the care. A person who is physically or mentally impaired is not available to provide child care.
- Enrolled full-time in a school of higher education, and is a single parent or person providing parental control whose spouse is not in the home, and is responsible for the care of a unit member under age 12;
- Enrolled through TANF Work and Training activities, or SNAP Employment and Training Program (SNAP E & T);
- Enrolled in a program under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA); and
- Taking part in a paid on-the-job training program through their employer.
The eligible student exemption does not continue between terms when there is a break of a full month or longer. The exemption does continue if the student works in a state or federal work-study assignment during the break. To qualify during the break, the student must continue to meet one of the above items.
No fixed residence is required, and homeless persons are eligible. Vacationers are not eligible. A person cannot receive benefits in more than one household in any payment month.
Verification of residence is not required for homeless persons, but DHS must have a means to administer benefits for homeless persons.
Social security number required
Households must provide a social security number for each household member. Persons for whom no social security number is provided without good cause are ineligible for SNAP. A household should not be denied SNAP if they are in the process of obtaining a SSN.
Each SNAP unit member who is not exempt from the work provisions must:
- Register for work;
- Cooperate with the SNAP Employment or TANF work and training program requirements,
- Accept a job offer of suitable employment;
- Not voluntarily quit a job; and
- Not voluntarily reduce work hours to less than 30 hours per week.
A SNAP unit member is exempt from the work provisions if the member is:
- Under age 16 or age 60 or older
- An ineligible SNAP unit member;
- Age 16 or 17 and not the SNAP payee;
- A student enrolled at least half-time in any recognized school or training program, including a school of higher education. Students of higher education must also meet the student eligibility requirements.
- Physically or mentally unable to work;
- Responsible for the care of a child under age 6, or for an incapacitated person, and the child or incapacitated person does not have to live in the home;
- Receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits, or applying for Unemployment Insurance benefits if they registered with Job Service as a part of the application process;
- Enrolled in and cooperating with a substance abuse treatment program;
- Working at least 30 hours per week or receiving weekly wages of 30 times the Federal minimum wage, and the person can be employed or self-employed; and
- A full-time Americorps VISTA volunteer under Title I or II of the 1973 Domestic Volunteer Services Act, as amended. For Title I programs, to be exempt, the person must have been receiving SNAP benefits, TANF, AABD, or GA at the time they joined Americorps VISTA.
Employment and training program
A mandatory SNAP Employment and Training (E and T) Program will operate in designated areas of the State that have SNAP E and T Job Placement Provider slots available. The Family Community Resource Center (FCRCs) in the designated areas will refer nonexempt customers to the providers to the extent that slots are available and ensure that provider slots are filled each month on a first come, first serve basis.
If a sanction occurs, the vacant slot of the sanctioned person is filled with another nonexempt person to ensure that all slots are filled to capacity monthly.
SNAP E and T participation is not required of a customer until a provider slot is available to refer them to for effective participation.
Currently the only group of SNAP recipients mandated to participate in the E and T program are non-exempt, able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs).
A person is exempt from E and T activities if they are:
- A member of a SNAP unit with children under age 18;
- Physically or mentally unable to work;
- A student, enrolled at least half-time, and students of higher education must meet student eligibility requirements;
- Responsible for care of an incapacitated person, and the incapacitated person does not have to live in the home;
- Participating in a drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program;
- Receiving Unemployment Insurance; and
- Residing in an area of the state where SNAP E and T contracted provider slots are not available for effective participation.
Clients in E and T take part in one or more of the following activities:
- Basic education
- Vocational training
- Job readiness only as part of another countable activity
- Job search only as part of another countable activity
- Work experience
- Community work
NOTE: The Earnfare program is limited to adults who receive SNAP benefits and volunteer, or to persons who are court-ordered to participate.
Voluntary quit/reduction of hours penalty
If the head of household voluntarily quits a job, reduces work hours, or participates in a strike without good cause within 60 days before or any time thereafter she applies for SNAP, the entire household may be sanctioned.
A job quit does not affect eligibility if:
- There was good cause for quitting the job;
- The job called for working less than 20 hours per week;
- Gross weekly earnings including tips were less than the federal minimum wage times 20 hours, see WAG 25-06-08;
- The person quit the job more than 60 days before the date of application;
- The employer reduced the number of hours of work;
- It was due to the ending of a self-employment business;
- The employer demanded the person resign from the job; and
- The person quit a job to start a new job for at least the same wages or hours and was laid off or lost the new job through no fault of their own.
A voluntary reduction in work hours to less than 30 hours per week does not affect eligibility if:
- There was good cause for reducing work hours;
- The hours are reduced by the employer;
- The reduction in hours is due to the ending of a self-employment business; and
- The employer demanded that the person either resign or reduce their hours.
A person who violates any of the SNAP work provisions or TANF work and training requirements without good cause is sanctioned from receiving SNAP benefits for:
|Violation Incidence||Sanction Time Limit|
|1st||3 fiscal months|
|2nd||3 fiscal months|
|3rd||6 fiscal months|
Independent of the SNAP E and T program, SNAP participants who are considered able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) are subject to a time limit. Unlike the E&T program, the time limit rule for these recipients is not contingent on the state providing a work, training, or education opportunity; the state has no obligation to offer support before applying the time limit to a case and ending benefits for a participant. States can, however, qualify for and choose to waive this time limit, statewide or in specific areas, when unemployment numbers are high.
When the time limit is in effect, ABAWDs are limited to 3 in 36 months of benefits unless they are working or participating in an education or training activity at least part time (80 or more hours each month). For each individual case, months are counted on a fixed 3-year calendar statewide.
Many single adults are exempt from the time limit but will need to submit verification that they meet one of the exemption criteria. ABAWDs who do not meet exemption criteria are required to report activity hours to the state on a monthly basis to maintain program eligibility.
Individuals are exempt from the time limit if they are:
- Under age 18 or over age 50
- Medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment
- A student enrolled at least half time
- A member of a household responsible for a dependent child
- Responsible for the care of an incapacitated person
- Participating in a drug addiction or alcoholism treatment and rehabilitation program
- Receiving weekly earnings of at least the federal minimum wage times 30 hours
- Receiving Unemployment Insurance
- Residing in an area which is exempt from this requirement
Note: the definition of physically or mentally unfit for employment does not mean that the person must be totally disabled.
An individual who has been denied eligibility because he or she participated in the program for 3 months without meeting the activity requirement may qualify for an additional three months of eligibility in a three year period. To qualify for the additional three months of eligibility, the individual must participate in a qualifying activity for 80 or more hours during a 30-day period. While a second 3-month period is only available to a participant once in the 3-year period, any ABAWD is eligible for SNAP in a month in which they are meeting the 80-hour activity requirement.
The time limit has not been in effect in Illinois but is expected to return January 1, 2017.
Assets: financial factors of eligibility
Most households do not have their assets counted when applying for SNAP. Households that have a member with a sanction or fraud violation must meet an asset test if they have more than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level in monthly income.
To be considered a qualifying member a person must meet one of the following criteria:
- Is 60 years of age or older;
- Receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, including a member who receives SSI pending a final decision from the Social Security Administration. This type of SSI is provided on a temporary or emergency basis;
- Receives Social Security Disability or Blindness benefits under Title II (RSDI) of the Social Security Act;
- Receives AABD cash or Medical;
- Is a veteran:
- With a service or non-service connected disability rated or paid as totally disabled by the Veterans Administration (VA) and verified in writing by VA as totally disabled; and
- Is considered by the VA to be in need of regular aid and attendance or permanently homebound.
- Is a veteran's surviving spouse who is considered in need of aid and attendance or considered permanently homebound by the VA;
- Is a surviving child of a veteran who is considered permanently incapable of self-support by the VA;
- Is a surviving spouse or child of a veteran entitled to VA benefits for a service-connected death, or VA pension benefits for a non-service connected death. Note: the spouse or child also has a disability under the Social Security Requirements;
- The member receives a federal, state, or local government disability pension and is considered permanently disabled under Social Security requirements;
- The member receives Railroad Retirement disability benefits; and
- The member receives an annuity payment from Railroad Retirement and is eligible for Medicare.
Asset limit and asset test
SNAP units without a qualifying member that have a work provision sanction or an Intentional Program Violation (IPV) must meet the 165% gross income standard, the net income standard and the asset limit of $2000.
SNAP units with a qualifying member and over 200% of the Federal Poverty Level in monthly income must meet the maximum net income standard and the $3250 asset limit to receive SNAP benefits.
For a complete list of exempt and non-exempt assets, see the DHS Policy Manual.
Non-exempt assets for households that must meet an asset test
Liquid assets include (not an exclusive list):
- Cash on hand
- Checking or savings accounts
- Credit union accounts
- Savings certificates
- Stocks or bonds
- Lump sum payments considered available starting in the month of receipt, unless exempt under Federal Law
Non-liquid assets, not an exclusive list:
- Equity value of licensed vehicles (subject to exception, see below)
- Unlicensed vehicles
- Non-homestead properties
- Other personal property not specifically exempted such as clothing and household furnishings are exempt
Exempt assets for households that must meet an asset test
Some assets do not count in the asset test, such as:
- The value of all vehicles;
- Inaccessible assets; and
- Resources of persons residing in battered women’s shelters are considered inaccessible if they are jointly owned and access to the resource is dependent on the agreement of the joint owner-batterer.
Note: Jointly owned assets are considered available in their entirety to each joint tenant unless the household can establish that it has access only to a portion of the resource. Joint resources are not accessible if the household cannot practically subdivide them, or access is dependent on the other joint tenant and the joint owner refuses to give that consent.
Other assets exempt from the asset test include:
- Homestead Property
- Income Producing Property
- Assets with Low Equity Value
- Personal Items
- Pension Plans, Retirement and Educational Accounts
- Prorated Income
- Life Insurance
- Burial Needs
- Disaster Relief Payments
- Indian Lands
- Special Federal Payment Programs
- Uniform Transfers to Minors Act
Transfer of resources penalty
A SNAP household subject to the asset limits will be disqualified from SNAP benefits for up to one year from the date of discovery if a unit member, including an ineligible unit member, has knowingly transferred assets:
- In the 3 months before the date of application or during the application process in order to qualify or attempt to qualify for SNAP benefits; and
- To prevent the unit's non-exempt assets from exceeding the asset limit for active cases.
The maximum income a household may have and still be eligible for SNAP depends on the household’s size and composition. A household without a "qualifying member" must have a gross income that is at or below 165% of the federal poverty level. The current maximum gross income is $1,619/month for 1 person and $3,335/month for 4 people when there is no "qualifying member" in the household.
If a household contains a person who is elderly or disabled, referred to as a "qualifying member", then the household unit gross income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. The current maximum gross income for a household with a qualifying member is $1,962/month for 1 person and $4,042/month for 4 people.
Gross income for a household consists of all household income received minus child support paid. Income is money received in exchange for work performed, from the sale of goods or services, or as a benefit. Certain income is exempt and does not affect eligibility, while other income is nonexempt and affects eligibility. All income must be verified and the amount and source documented in the case record. The receipt of SNAP benefits is not income and does not reduce the amount of benefits received from other public assistance programs. See the DHS Policy Manual for a complete list of exemptions and definitions.
Determining SNAP benefit amount
Use the online SNAP Calculator to determine eligibility.
Deductions from gross income determine net income, which is used to determine the amount of SNAP benefits. Households can take the following deductions from gross income:
- Earned income – 20% is disregarded which accounts for taxes and acts as a work incentive;
- Standard deduction – all households receive this, covers basic, unavoidable costs. This is a fixed amount based on the household’s size;
- Excess shelter deduction for families with high housing costs;
- Dependent care deduction for children or disabled adults for out-of-pocket child care costs when working or in school; and
- Medical expenses for Qualified Members.
These calculations are all done by the state when determining the benefit amount a household is qualified for. The important thing to note is that a household with high expenses will likely benefit from more than one of these deductions, helping them qualify for a more significant SNAP benefit amount.
Date of payment
SNAP benefits are not paid to all households at the same time of the month. DHS staggers payments to eligible households on different dates throughout the month. Households must be informed of the date of the month they can expect to receive their SNAP benefits.
Certification and reporting requirements
Eligible households are "certified" to receive SNAP, provided they continue to remain eligible, for a certification period. Generally the certification period for households in monthly or quarterly reporting is 12 months. For households in which every member is either elderly or disabled the certification period is usually 24 months. For most others, it is twelve months with a six-month mid-point report. Households approved for expedited SNAP that have not completed verification of all the factors of eligibility may be certified for less than 3 months, until the verification is completed.
Notice of expiration of certification must be received by the household no later than the first day of the household’s last month of certification and must inform the household of the date the certification period ends and what it must do to continue their eligibility for SNAP.
Note: At the end of a certification period the household must file a new application of "re-certification" also referred to as “REDE” for continued SNAP.
Households that submit a recertification by the 15th of the first month after the certification expiration are entitled to uninterrupted SNAP, if they remain eligible otherwise.
Reporting household changes
Most SNAP recipients must only report changes that affect their eligibility for the program. Examples of changes that affect benefits include:
- A change in income that exceeds the gross income limit for their household size;
- A change in the number of people living in the house; and
- A change of address, death, or discharge from a long term care (LTC) or supportive living facility (SLF). The LTC or SLF must also report any change that affects a resident's eligibility.
In the future, recipients will be able to report changes online.
DHS will establish a claim against a household that receives more SNAP benefits than it was entitled to receive.
There are three categories of SNAP overpayments:
- Agency error (AE)
- Inadvertent household error (IHE)
- Intentional program violation (IPV)
The state must attempt collection unless the amount is less than $35, the agency cannot locate the household, or the claim has been offset by an under issuance.
When figuring a SNAP overpayment, DHS must not collect:
- For an IPV: the monthly recoupment amount is the greater of $20 or 20% of the monthly benefit the SNAP unit would receive if the person having the IPV was included.
- For an IHE or and AE: the monthly recoupment amount is the greater of $10 or 10% of the SNAP unit's monthly benefit.
Note: Prior to 8/22/96, the agency could not reduce benefits to collect agency error overpayment. DHS is now applying the new law retroactively, which advocates have successfully challenged in Stone v. Redell, 308 F.3d 751 (7th Cir. 2002).
For former recipients who fail to make payments on over issuance claims, the agency may refer an overpayment case to the State Comptroller for offsetting of any state check that may be due to the recipient, including unemployment insurance and state income tax refunds, or to the Federal Tax Refund Offset Program for offsetting a federal tax refund check. Social Security benefits, not SSI, can be offset up to 15% of the monthly payment amount to collect the overpayment. Note: the first $750 of monthly benefits is exempt.
Note: Overpayments that are not IPVs can usually be discharged in bankruptcy. Even if the SNAP recipient did not list the SNAP overpayment in the bankruptcy, it can still be considered discharged. In Re Mendiola, 99 B.R. 864 Bankr. N.D. Ill 1989.
Intentional program violations (IPV)
Households that commit intentional violations of the SNAP program rules are subject to a severe penalty. To establish an intentional program violation, the state agency must show by clear and convincing evidence that the household member made a false or misleading statement, misrepresented, concealed or withheld facts, or committed an act that constitutes a violation of the appropriate statutes or regulations relating to the use, presentation, transfer, acquisition, receipt or possession of SNAP coupons or ATPs.
IPV disqualification process
Unlike other decisions of the state agency, to establish an IPV, DHS must hold an administrative disqualification hearing unless the person is being prosecuted for the offense or signs a waiver of her right to a hearing. It is never advisable to sign a waiver. If the individual suspected of an intentional program violation does not want to contest the allegation, they can simply fail to attend the disqualification hearing, rather than sign the waiver form. If the individual signs the waiver, the disqualification will be imposed. If the individual defaults at the hearing, the department must still prove to the hearing officer that the intentional program violation occurred.
The individual suspected of an intentional program violation is entitled to notice of the allegations against her. At a minimum, the notice must state the date, time and place of the hearing, the charges against the household, a summary of the evidence against the household, a warning that the decision will be based solely on the DHS information if the accused doesn't appear at the hearing, a listing of the household member’s rights, a description of the penalties involved, and a statement that the hearing does not preclude prosecution.
The notice of the scheduled hearing must be mailed certified mail return receipt requested or by some other method that proves receipt. The time and place of the hearing must be so as to be accessible to the household member accused. The suspected household member must have 30 days advance notice of the scheduled hearing. The individual may request a postponement, up to two days before the scheduled hearing date. A continuance at the hearing can be requested for any reason if it is the first request.
Note: If the recipient has good cause for failing to attend a hearing within 30 days of the hearing date, that indiviual is entitled to a new hearing date.
If the accused household member claims they did not receive the notice of the scheduled hearing, and the office cannot prove the notice was actually received or refused, a second hearing must be scheduled.
Rights of recipient
A pending disqualification hearing does not affect the household’s right to be certified and receive SNAP.
An individual has the right to counsel, to see the evidence in her file, to confront and cross examine the witnesses against them at the hearing. The agency has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the suspected household member committed an intentional program violation.
The decision of the administrative disqualification hearing officer must be in writing, based on the evidence of record only and must specify the reasons for the decision, identify the supporting evidence, identify the pertinent federal regulations, respond to reasoned arguments made by the household member or representative, and inform the household of the date the disqualification will take effect.
Recipients who have committed an intentional program violation are ineligible for 12 months for the first such instance; 24 months for the second, and permanent disqualification for the third.
There are special increased penalties for certain situations:
- In the event that a SNAP/food stamp program violation is found against a household member that no longer receives SNAP benefits, the disqualification period begins to run starting the first month after the disqualification decision, even though the household member would not have gotten food stamps anyway;
- A person is permanently disqualified if he or she is convicted of trafficking food stamp benefits of $500 or more;
- A person is disqualified from receiving food stamps for ten years when an Administrative Disqualification Hearing or a federal or State court convicts him or her of making a false statement or representation about his or her identity or residence in order to receive more than one food stamp issuance at the same time;
- If the person is currently participating in the Food Stamp Program, disqualification begins no later than the second fiscal month, defined at 89 Ill. Adm. Code 101.20, after the month of the hearing decision. Once the period of disqualification is imposed, it continues regardless of the eligibility of the disqualified member's household;
- If the person is not participating in the Food Stamp Program, the disqualification begins the month after the month of the hearing decision; and
- If the individual intentionally failed to report income, the earned income deduction is not applied to that portion of income the individual failed to report (not the entire amount of earned income) when calculating the overpayment amount.
For current SNAP recipients, the disqualification must be imposed by the second month following the disqualification decision. If DHS fails to do so, an agency error overpayment is established.
Only the household member who is found to have committed the IPV is removed from SNAP. Other household members may continue to receive SNAP if otherwise still eligible.
Notice of adverse action. Adverse actions are those having a negative effect on a household’s ability to participate in the SNAP program, other than intentional program violations, which require the agency to take the special actions described above.
Prior to taking any adverse action, DHS must send the household adequate notice of adverse action, 10 days before any action is taken to terminate or reduce benefits.
To be adequate, the notice must contain:
- Proposed action;
- Reason for proposed action, including a policy citation on which the action is based;
- Household’s right to request a fair hearing;
- Description of how to file an appeal;
- Telephone number to call for more information;
- A description of the right to continued benefits while the appeal is pending, if requested within the date of change on the notice;
- Liability of household for any over issuance received while waiting for hearing decision if final decision is adverse to client; and
- Name of individuals or organization providing free legal assistance.
Appeal deadline and hearing rights
Households have 90 days from the date of the notice to request a hearing. A hearing should be scheduled and a decision issued within 60 days of the date of the request.
If the household requests a hearing within the date of change on the notice, SNAP benefits must be continued until the hearing decision has been made, unless the household waives its right to continued benefits or the household’s certification period expires and the household has failed to recertify.
Where submission of a required report is at issue, the household’s receipt of continuing benefits is contingent upon the completion of the report by the end of the month in which the appeal is filed.
A postponement of a hearing can be requested for any reason within 2 business days before the hearing. This request should be made in writing. A continuance request at the hearing must be granted if it is the first request.
During an appeal, the household has the right:
- To be represented by a lawyer, friend, or anyone else;
- To see the household’s file and get free copies of any documents needed to prepare for the hearing. The household has a right to get these materials far enough in advance to prepare adequately for the hearing;
- To bring witnesses;
- To confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses;
- To present arguments and documents that support the household’s position; and
- To reply to arguments made by DHS
The household has the right to a written decision that must include:
- Reasons for the decision
- Any further appeal rights
- The effect of the decision on the household’s benefits
Review of hearing decision
Decisions are reviewable in the Circuit Court by writ of certiorari. It is usually advisable to file within 35 days of the date of the decision as required by the Administrative Procedure Act. However, case law allows writs to be filed within 180 days after the date of the decision.