About the Program
A SNAP account is established for eligible households and automatic deposits are made into the account each month. To access the account, they will also receive an EBT Card, which will debit the account each time eligible food items are purchased. A secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) is required to use the card.
Eligibility Income Limits
Guidance & Procedures
Designating a Representative to Act on Your Behalf
A spouse, adult member of your household, trusted friend, relative or neighbor can be designated representative. This person may:
- Apply for SNAP for your household
- Receive a Virginia EBT Card that can access your SNAP account
- Use your SNAP benefits for you at the grocery store
- Receive copies of your SNAP notices and correspondence
If you want to designate an authorized representative you may do so your application or by writing a note for that person to take to the local social services department. The note will need to include:
- The name, address and phone number of the person you designating
- The duties you want that person to perform on your behalf
- Your signature and the date
If you are age 18 to 50 and able to work, you may be subject to a work requirement in order to receive SNAP. This requirement would limit the number of months for which you could receive SNAP to three months in a 36 month period. After you receive SNAP for three months, you may be able to receive three additional months if you complete certain work related requirements. You may be exempt from this work requirement if you are currently working or participating in an approved work program; responsible for the care of a child; pregnant; medically certified as unable to work; meet one of several work registration exemption reasons; or live in an exempt locality.
Items that Can and Cannot be Purchased
Items that can be purchased with SNAP include:
- Food or food products meant to be eaten by people
- Vegetable seeds and food producing plants, roots, and trees for family consumption
- Baby formula, diabetic, and diet foods
- Edible items used in preparing or preserving food such as spices and herbs, pectin, and shortening
- Water and ice labeled for human consumption
- Snack foods
- Meals delivered to elderly or disabled SNAP recipients if the organization providing the meal is authorized to accept EBT cards
Items that cannot be purchased with benefits include:
- Prepared hot foods in grocery stores
- Any prepared food (hot or cold) sold and meant to be eaten at the store
- Alcoholic beverages and tobacco
- Cleaning products, paper products, toiletries, and cooking utensils
- Pet foods
- Items for food preservation such as canning jars and lids, freezer containers, or food wrapping paper
- Medicines, vitamins or minerals
- Items for gardening such as fertilizer and peat moss
Retailers will not give cash change on an EBT purchase. The EBT card will not allow a person to receive cash from an Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Food purchased with SNAP benefits is exempt from the state sales tax. However, sales tax is charged on the value of manufacturer's coupons that might be used in the transaction, and the sales tax must be paid in cash.
Example: An EBT cardholder's groceries add up to $27.50. She has manufacturer's coupons which total $3.50, to reduce her grocery bill to $24.00. $24.00 is deducted from her EBT account, and she will owe Virginia's food sales tax on the value of the coupons (2.5% food sales tax times $3.50 equals 8.75 cents, rounded to 9 cents). When items that were purchased with SNAP benefits are returned to the store, the merchant credits the money back to the EBT account. Cash is not given back.
At the checkout counter, tell the cashier beforehand that you will pay with your EBT Card. Depending on the store, you may need to separate the items.
Selecting Head of Household
You may select any adult member as the head of your household. If you select either an adult parent of a child any age or an adult who acts as a guardian for a child under age 18, all the adults in the household must agree with your choice for head of household or the agency will choose the head of your household.
If you select any other adult or you do not select a head of household, and someone in your household does not cooperate with an employment and training program or reduces the hours worked or quits a job without good cause, the agency will choose the head of household to be the person who earned the most money from working during the previous two months.
If the person selected as head of household does not cooperate as required with an employment program or reduces the hours worked or quits a job without good cause, your household may not be able to get SNAP for up to 6 months.
You may select the head of your household every time you apply for SNAP. If there is a parent-child combination, you may change your selection whenever someone joins or leaves your household. Tell your worker if you want to change your selection.
Penalties for SNAP Program Violations
You must not give false information or hide information to get SNAP. You must not trade or sell the EBT card or your PIN. You must not allow a retailer to debit your EBT account in exchange for cash. You must not change EBT cards to get SNAP you are not eligible to receive. You must not use SNAP to buy non-food items, such as alcohol, tobacco or paper products. You must not use someone else's SNAP or EBT card for your household.
Anyone intentionally breaking any of these rules could be barred from receiving SNAP for 12 months (1st violation); barred for 24 months (2nd violation); barred permanently (3rd violation); subject to $250,000 fine, imprisoned up to 20 years, or both; suspended for an additional 18 months and further prosecuted under other federal and state laws.
Anyone who intentionally gives false information or hides information about identity or residence to get SNAP in more than one household at the same time could be barred for 10 years.
Anyone convicted of trading SNAP for a controlled substance could be barred from receiving SNAP for 24 months (1st violation) and barred permanently (2nd violation).
Anyone convicted of trading SNAP for firearms, ammunition, or explosive could be barred permanently (1st violation).
Anyone convicted for trading or selling SNAP of $500 or more could be barred permanently.
Anyone convicted of a drug-related felony committed after August 22, 1996, could be barred permanently.
For additional information on program rules, federal regulations, income limits and retailer information visit the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture Web site.
Screening for Eligibility & Applying
- Option 1: Screen for eligibility and/or apply online through CommonHelp
- Option 2: Bypass eligibility screening and submit an application manually. Fill out an "Application for Benefits" from the forms section on this page and return it to your local department of social services.
Please note the following:
- A manual application cannot be processed and is not considered complete until it is signed and received by your local department.
- An interview will be required unless you meet the conditions for a waiver . Proof of identity (driver's license or picture I.D.), residence, income, resource and shelter expenses will be required.
- Applications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or General Relief, are considered an application for SNAP, unless you request otherwise.
- If all members have applied for or get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you may also apply for SNAP at the local Social Security office.
- Appeal to the State Department of Social Services (PDF)
- Application for Benefits (PDF)
- Application for Benefits (Chinese) (PDF)
- Application for Benefits (Korean) (PDF)
- Application for Benefits (Spanish) (PDF)
- Application for Benefits (Vietnamese) (PDF)
- Benefit Programs Brochure (PDF)
- Social Security Changes (PDF)
SNAP Employment & Training Program (SNAPET)
The federal government requires states to design and operate an employment and training companion to SNAP. In Virginia the program is known as SNAPET (SNAP Employment and Training). Program participation is voluntary as of January 1, 2012. However, those individuals who are not exempt from work registration and who have their benefits time-limited have an opportunity to extend SNAP by choosing to participate in the SNAPET program, where offered. Not participating can prevent SNAP recipients from receiving services that could help them find and keep employment.
- Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
- Learn More (Web page)
- Local SNAPET Agencies (DOC)
- SNAP Manual (Web page)
- SNAPET - State Plan FFY 2016 (PDF)
Federal Legal Base - Food Stamp Act of 1977, Public Law 95-113
Federal Regulation Base - 7 CFR, 271 through 282.11
SNAP Legal Basis
- Federal Legal Base - Food and Nutrition Act of 2008
- Federal Regulation Base - 7 CFR, 271 through 283
- State Legal Base - Code of Virginia, Section 63.2-801