This is the first blog post in a series of articles we will be posting about the food stamp, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), in each of the 50 states. In this series, we will cover the basics of SNAP, the specifics of the program in each state, how and where to apply for food stamps in each state, how SNAP benefits are received, and how to find stores where food stamps can be redeemed (the best place for that is this site!).
The Illinois Department of Human Services runs the food stamp program in Illinois. The program gives low-income families and individuals monetary assistance to purchase food. The amount of cash assistance varies from state to state and depends on the number of people in your household and your household’s monthly income - the higher the income, the lower the benefits; the larger the household, the higher the benefits. Illinois’ guidelines for eligibility are listed here. If you are really in a bind Illinois has an emergency SNAP benefits program in which you can start receiving benefits within 5 days of applying - information can be found here.
In Illinois, the application for SNAP benefits can be found online, here. A guide for applying for benefits can be found here. If you can’t or do not want to fill out the online form, you can also print the PDF found here (in both Spanish and English) and file a paper copy with an Illinois Department of Human Services office. You do need to know basic information about yourself to complete the application, like your name and Social Security Number; you also need your income and asset information. The form will ask you a series of questions that determine your eligibility.
After you submit your application, the Illinois Department of Human Services will schedule an interview with you, either in person or over the phone if are unable to come to an office. They will need documents such as: a proof of your identity, proof of residence, proof of Social Security Numbers for all people on your application, and potentially anything else the caseworker requires.
All benefits are delivered electronically, through EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer). In Illinois the money is put onto a specialized type of debit card called a Link card. There are guidelines on what types of food can be purchased with SNAP benefits - in Illinois you can buy any food for human consumption or seeds and plants for use in home gardens to grow food. You cannot buy hot food that are ready to eat, food intended to be heated up in the store, food to be eaten in the store, vitamins or medicine, pet food, non-food items, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco.
If you are looking to find places to use SNAP benefits, you came to the right place! Just type your zip code or address into the box in the upper right of this page and select “Food Stamp Retailers” from the dropdown - you will see all the stores that accept the Link card, sorted by distance from you!