The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income people and families buy the food they need to help them achieve good health. Benefits are administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and provided on the Illinois Link Card – an electronic card that looks and works like a debit card at most grocery stores and some farmer’s markets and online grocery delivery services.
Who can receive these services?
There are a few factors that determine SNAP eligibility including household income and the number of people you live with.
To see if you qualify for benefits, refer to this ABE Screener questionnaire from IDHS or speak to an ACCESS Benefit Specialist who can help determine your eligibility. If you do meet the qualifications, we will provide you with a list of information needed to complete your application, which includes appropriate documents and proof of income.
What documents are needed to apply for SNAP?
The more information you can provide about yourself and/or any qualifying family members, the better. This helps the application process move more quickly. We suggest supplying various types of documents such as:
- Birth certificates
- Social security cards
- Proof of U.S. residency
- Rent (3) months or mortgage receipt
- Utility bills
- State I.D.
- Child support proof
- Child care payments
- Monthly household income (1 month)
Bring these documents to your appointment with an ACCESS Benefit Specialist so they can help you fill out your application. Once the application is completed, we will submit it to your local IDHS office.
What happens next?
The application process begins the day your IDHS office receives your signed application. You will be asked to come to the office for an interview or participate by phone if you are unable to come to the office.
You will be asked for various types of documents such as:
- Proof of your identity
- Proof of your residence
- Proof of Social Security numbers for all people on your application
- Other types of documents depending on your circumstances.
Prior to your visit, the DHS caseworker will tell you what you need to bring.
How long until you receive benefits?
The wait time varies for each client. An individual or family that has no income might receive SNAP benefits within 45 days or less, but this can extend to two months.
Where Can I Use My SNAP Benefits?
SNAP benefits can be used at most grocery stores and some farmers markets and online grocery delivery services. To find a business that accepts SNAP, check out the SNAP Retail Locator tool from the USDA, which allows you to search for businesses that accept SNAP by street address, city and state, or zip code.
What services are offered?
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 non-food items (except seeds and plants)
- Alcoholic beverages
Is WIC included in SNAP?
The (Women, Infants and Children) WIC program provides supplemental food assistance designed to meet the special nutritional needs of pregnant, breastfeeding, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and infants and children up to five years of age who are at nutritional risk. WIC is a supplemental benefit, which means the patient must have a child or children under the age of 5. It is not included with the SNAP benefits.
It is possible to have both SNAP and WIC, but a client can only apply for WIC if they are pregnant and/or have a qualifying child or children.
How Can I Get Connected to an ACCESS Benefit Specialist?
To get help from an ACCESS Benefit Specialist and learn more about the services and application process, schedule an appointment at any one of our 35 Chicagoland locations by calling 866.267.2353 or visiting achn.net. We have bilingual staff available to help assist with any benefits assistance.
If you could benefit from SNAP or would like to find out more, contact ACCESS to schedule an appointment at one of our community health centers in the Chicago area.