Food Stamps, Cash Assistance Article

The Food Stamp Program: Income and Deductions

The Food Stamp Program: Income and Deductions

By Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc.

To qualify for food stamps, you must have less income than the food stamp income limits. Some income does not count. DES will deduct certain expenses from your income before they decide how many food stamps you can get. These expenses include things like day care costs, child support payments, and shelter and utility expenses. Elderly and disabled persons can also get a deduction for out-of-pocket medical expenses over $35 a month.

Resources - Resources are things you own such as cash on hand or in the bank. Your household can have up to $2,000 in resources. If a member of your food stamp household is age 60 or over, the household can have up to $3000 in resources. There are special resource limits for the cars and trucks you own. Some resources don't count.

Other Requirements

DES will also consider your immigration status, where you live, who lives with you and your ability to work in deciding if you can get food stamps.

Work Requirements

If you are age 16 to 60, you may have to participate in the Food Stamp Employment and Training Program. Some people are excused from participating in this program.

You must also meet the Able-Bodied work requirement to get food stamps. To do this, you must work or be in a DES approved training program for at least 20 hours a week. You can be excused from the able-bodied work requirement if you are:

  • under age 18 or over age 50;
  • a half-time student;
  • unable to work because of a disability;
  • pregnant;
  • in the Jobs program;
  • getting unemployment benefits;
  • taking care of a disabled person at least 20 hours a week;
  • in a drug or alcohol treatment program;
  • living where there is high unemployment;
  • responsible for a child under 18. 

If you do not meet the able-bodied work requirement and you are not excused, you can only get food stamps for 3 months in a 36 month period.

Can I Apply for Food Stamps Any Time?

Yes! DES must accept your application. You need to fill out an application and be interviewed before DES can decide if you can get food stamps. You can ask for an application from any DES office.

What Happens at the Interview?

DES will go over the questions and answers on the application with you. Always give DES accurate and complete information.

What if I am Elderly or Disabled?

If you can't go to the DES office because you are elderly or disabled and no one in your home can apply for you, you should call DES to ask that an application be mailed to you. DES must mail it the same day. You can also ask DES to interview you by telephone or by a home visit. You can also authorize some one to be your representative so they can apply for you. DES must accommodate you.

What Type of Information Must I Verify?

DES can ask you for written proof of certain things which show you are eligible for food stamps. These things include social security numbers, identification, persons living in your home, where you live, rent or mortgage and utility expenses, etc.

DES must give you 10 days to give them this information. If you can't do this within 10 days, you should ask DES for more time. You can also ask DES for help.

How Long Does DES Have to Make a Decision?

Within 30 days of the application date, DES must send you a written decision which approves or denies your application. The decision must say whether you are eligible for food stamps, the amount of food stamps you will get, and how to dispute the decision if you do not agree with it.

What If I Disagree?

You can dispute the decision by requesting a fair hearing within 90 days of the date of the food stamp decision letter. To ask for a fair hearing, you should fill out the form on the back of the decision and give it to DES.

What If I Need Food Stamps Right Away?

Emergency food stamps are called expedited food stamps. You may qualify for expedited food stamps if you have not received food stamps for 30 days before your application and you meet special income requirements. DES must interview you the same day or the following day of your application. If you qualify for expedited food stamps, DES must give you food stamps within 7 days.

Do I Have to Report Changes?

Within 10 days of the change, you must tell DES about changes in your situation which could affect your eligibility for food stamps. This includes changes in income, resources, jobs, residence, household members, etc.

How Do I Report Changes?

You can report changes by calling your DES worker or by filling out a change report form at DES. It is best to fill out a change report form and ask DES to stamp it with the date you turned it in. You should ask for a date-stamped copy for your records. If you have to call DES, you should write down the date you called and who you spoke to in case DES does not make a record of your call.

On-line Help

Arizona Self Help  is a free and easy way for you to prescreen for programs that are available to help you and your family. Arizona Self Help is private, we do not ask who you are and we do not share your information with anyone. Arizona Self Help will tell you where to go for help and what to bring with you, after you have answered all the questions. Arizona Self Help cannot guarantee that you qualify for these programs. You must still apply for help by contacting and filling out the required forms for each program. 

Reviewed 2003


On 6/21/10
Nancy said
It would be nice if they had the income limit table posted, that way people know if they qualify ahead of time.

On 4/24/10
mendoza9 said
Great information and ACCURATE. THANK YOU!

On 5/28/09
elizabeth said
I think this is great, hopefully people will get the answers they need, and DES wont get bombarded with so many calls.

On 12/28/06
Jocelyn said
Thanks for this information. Applying for any kind of government aid is complex and the information here helps to clarify.


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