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November 22nd

The Ultimate Guide to Illinois (IL) Food Stamps & EBT

The Ultimate Guide to Illinois (IL) Food Stamps & EBT

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps, is a Federal assistance program created to help low-income individuals and families obtain the food they need to stay healthy. SNAP is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (FDA) through the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). SNAP Illinois is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) food stamps program via the Illinois Link Card, an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that works as a debit card for approved SNAP purchases at stores that accept EBT.

The Link Card: Illinois Food Stamps and EBT

The Illinois Link Card looks like a debit card and can be used at any debit or credit card terminal at stores that accept EBT payments. Individuals who receive SNAP benefits in Illinois are still eligible to receive other food assistance, including food pantries and soup kitchens.

Illinois distributes SNAP benefits on the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th, 17th, and 20th of every month. The distribution date is determined based on the type of case and the case name.

If you have questions about Food Stamps in Illinois or EBT, or you need to check your IL SNAP balance, you can call the Illinois Link card customer service phone number at 1-800-678-5465 or visit the Illinois Link website.

Who Qualifies for Illinois Food Stamps and EBT

SNAP Benefits are available to low-income individuals and families. Eligibility for Illinois EBT and food stamps, and the amount of the benefits awarded are based on the size of the household, and that household’s gross and net income and expenses. Benefits are generally calculated by subtracting household expenses such as rent, utilities, medical expenses, and other necessary costs from the household gross income, which is the income of all members of the household before taxes and other deductions.

Household Eligibility
The number of individuals in a household is based on the number of individuals who live together and prepare food together, including both adults and children. If an individual lives in the same household but purchases and prepares food separately, they are not considered a member of the household for the purposes of determining SNAP benefits.

In addition to income and household size, SNAP case workers will take into account whether any members of the household are disabled or elderly. In this case, eligibility and benefits will be determined based on net instead of gross income, for a higher potential benefit. In addition, elderly individuals who are disabled and over 60 years old or individuals whose disability prevents them from preparing their own food may be able to receive individual SNAP benefits, even if they are sharing food in a larger household.

IL Snap Income Guidelines
If you are not sure whether you are eligible for an Illinois Link Card, you can use the SNAP Eligibility Calculator on the IDHS website for an estimate of potential benefits. This is only an estimate, and will not necessarily reflect acceptance into the program or an actual benefit amount. The IDHS also offers two charts here as an easy reference for maximum allowed household income for SNAP benefit eligibility and maximum possible benefits for each household size. Please note that this is an estimate of maximum benefits for household size, and not a definitive guide to benefits. Your benefit amount will still be based upon income, and can be lower than the maximum benefit indicated.

If you have any questions regarding income requirements, the Illinois SNAP phone number is 1-800-678-5465.

Limitations and Ineligibility
Under some circumstances, Federal regulations deny SNAP eligibility to certain individuals or households, regardless of their income, including individuals on strike, most students at colleges and universities, boarders, and certain legal immigrants. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to apply for EBT in Illinois.

Able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) are individuals between the ages of 18 and 49 who are not disabled, and are considered able to work. ABAWD are usually limited to 3 months worth of SNAP benefits in any 36 month period, unless they are working at least 20 hours per week. This 20 hours can be a combination of:

  • Direct Employment
  • Job Training Program
  • Volunteer Service with an eligible Community Service Provider
  • KEYS Educational Program

Extenuating Circumstances

The requirements for ABAWD applicants can be waived for extenuating circumstances, including but not limited to:

  • Pregnancy
  • Homelessness
  • Participation in a drug or alcohol treatment program
  • Student enrolled at least half time
  • Victim of domestic violence

Other extenuating circumstances may apply. If you are not sure whether your circumstances make you eligible for SNAP, you can contact IDHS here or call them toll free at 1-800-843-6154.

IDHS expects that individuals who can work will make every effort to do so, and may ask for documented proof that efforts are being made to comply with work requirements. SNAP eligibility is reviewed periodically, and any changes to an individual’s situation which may affect their SNAP benefits must be reported within 10 days of the change.

Asset Limits
In addition to the above requirement, SNAP eligibility may also be limited by the value of assets owned in the household on rare occasions. For SNAP purposes, assets are considered money held in checking or savings accounts, stocks, or bonds that are owned by a member of the household and have financial value. When determining SNAP eligibility, assets do not include houses, vehicles, burial plots, funeral savings up to $1500, or any belonging that cannot be exchanged for cash.

Asset limits only apply in specific circumstances, as follows:

  • When an individual in the household has committed an Intentional Program Violation (IPV) or has been sanctioned by a judge for violation of work provisions, the asset limit for the rest of the household is $2,250.
  • When the applicant’s household includes an elderly or disabled member, and the total household income is greater than 200% of the US Federal Poverty Guidelines for a household of that size, the asset limit for the household is $3,500.

Changes Within Your Household

Any changes to a household that may affect the benefits received must be reported to IDHS within 10 days of the occurrence of that change. Certain exceptions to reporting may apply, so individuals should be sure to discuss any changes with their caseworker. In general, household changes that must be reported include:

  • Changes to household size, such as someone moving into or out of the household, or a birth or death in the household.
  • Changes to income or expenses, such as a raise, rent increase, new savings account, or payment or receipt of child support.
  • Changes to Employment, including a new job, reduced or increased hours for ABAWD individuals who must meet a 20 hour minimum work requirement, or loss of employment.
  • Change of address, if the household is moving to a new location, so that all important correspondence is routed to the correct location.
  • Changes can be reported to your caseworker or on the Application for Benefits Eligibility (ABE) website.

Food Stamps for Pregnant Women and WIC Eligibility in Illinois

When a child is born into the household, the size of the household will increase, making them eligible for additional benefits. Because additional SNAP benefits cannot be claimed until after the child is born, pregnant individuals can apply for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Illinois benefits. Applying for Illinois WIC can provide additional support through funding that can be used for healthy foods and supplies for pregnant women, new parents, and children up to the age of 5.

Eligible Purchases and Discounts

The Illinois Link EBT card and food stamps can be used to purchase food items and seeds or plants that produce food from stores and markets that accept EBT payments. You can also use your Link EBT Illinois card for discounted admissions at participating establishments, including museums, aquariums, and zoos.

Your EBT card cannot be used to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco, vitamins and supplements, medicines, live animals, prepared or ready-to-eat foods, or any nonfood items.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

If you are in need of assistance for expenses that are not food-related, there are additional resources available. For households with a child 18 years old or younger, cash assistance may be available through Illinois Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF provides financial assistance to pregnant women and needy families with dependent children. This cash assistance can be used to cover other expenses and help make ends meet. To check your eligibility, simply enter your information into the Eligibility Calculator.

Applying for EBT Illinois Link Card

The simplest way to apply for a Link Card in Illinois is through the IDHS ABE system. Once you have completed the Illinois snap benefits application and provided the necessary documentation, your application will be reviewed by your IDHS Family Community Resource Center, and they will send notice of your eligibility by mail. To add information or check the status of your application, visit abe.illinois.gov Manage My Case.

If you prefer to apply in person, contact your local Family Community Resource Center to schedule an appointment, or you can call the Illinois SNAP hotline toll free at 1-800-843-6154.

Reapplying for EBT Illinois Link Card

If you are already receiving SNAP benefits, you will need to reapply for your Illinois Link Card annually to retain your benefits. In order to avoid a lapse in coverage, be sure to complete your Illinois EBT Link application before your current benefits expire. Although IDHS will send a reminder to you by mail, it is best to put a reminder in your calendar, so that you do not miss your Illinois Link Card renewal. As with a new application, you can use your ABE account to renew your benefits, or to apply in person contact your local Family Community Resource Center or call the Illinois SNAP hotline at 1-800-843-6154.

Card Resources

If you already have an Illinois Link Card, there are a number of resources available to manage your EBT Link account or check your Link Card status.

To check your IL EBT Link Card balance, login to your IL Link Card account on the Illinois Link Card website , or call the Illinois EBT Customer Service number at 1-800-678-LINK (5465) and ask for your Illinois Link account balance.

To report a lost Illinois Link Card, call Link Card Customer Service as soon as possible at 1-800-678-5465. Please note that if your card is used, it may be difficult to regain those benefits, so time is of the essence.

For more Link Card resources, visit Manage My Illinois Link Account.

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