How to SNAP: Utilities Rules

 

In some states, utilities will have a big impact on your food stamps. In some cases, Food Stamps will apply a standard utility allowance. It may be much higher than what you actually pay in utilities.

If you pay for rent and utilities separately, you will be eligible for this benefit. If your utilities are included in your rent, you will not be eligible for this.

In some states, the standard utilities deductions are crazy high! For example, in Vermont it is $787 per month!

🍎  Jim Lives in Vermont – Jim lives in Vermont in a tiny, well-insulated studio apartment. His rent is $600 per month, including utilities. His food stamps are $50 per month.

🍎  Jim Lives in Vermont – Jim lives in Vermont in a tiny, well-insulated studio apartment. His rent is $300 and his utilities are $300 per month. This is what he writes on his application. But when the caseworker process his case, the caseworker enters the standard utilities allowance. She writes that his rent is $300 and his utilities are counted at $787! His food stamps are $190 per month.

Utility Deductions in Your State

You do not need to know the utility deductions in your state. You just write your actual utility cost, and then the caseworker will make the adjustment.

However, if you are curious and want to learn more here is a chart of Standard Utility Deductions.

Depending on your state you may notice:

No standard utility deduction: In this case, they will just use the actual cost of your utilities.

Standard Utility Deduction including Heating and Cooling – This includes all utilities, including heating and cooling.

Limited utility deduction – For people who do not pay heating and cooling, but do pay at least two other utilities: electric (not heating/cooling), telephone, water, sewage, and trash collection.

Telephone – For people not eligible for either of the above, but do pay phone.

You can also get a deduction for “telephone” but not for internet. Because these rules were written in the dark ages.

Next Steps

If you have a change in your income, savings, rent, utilities, medical expenses, or household, always notify your food stamps caseworker.

If you would like to request that your food stamps be reassessed based on changes, you can request this at any time.

Some of our readers report that they found it easier to report changes and communicate with their caseworker by email. This has the added advantage of creating a written record of changes you report. You can ask your caseworker if she has an email where you can reach her.

If you are asked to go to an in-person meeting and you cannot attend due to your disability, you can request an accommodation to do the meeting by phone or mail.

If you think your food stamps were not processed correctly, here’s some ideas for next steps.

There are a bunch more food stamps rules and regs it may really help you to know: How to Get Enough Food Stamps to Actually Eat

Updated March 2018. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.

12 thoughts on “How to SNAP: Utilities Rules”

  1. I pay all rent and all utilities (electric, gas, water/sewer and phone). In my state (WV), the phone is not counted because it is a prepaid Straight Talk phone. My problem is this – the electric is in my son’s name because I owe an old bill that the electric company will not let me pay off with my regular monthly payment (they suggested I file for bankruptcy instead). Can I still claim the electric payment? I pay the bill. My adult son lives with me but I have no idea how much money he makes nor does he give me money. He buys his own food and other supplies. My house is basically just a place for him to sleep and get mail. He will NOT share his income information with me. I pay the bill at a local Walmart with cash because we do not have a local utility office and the bill pay service does not accept checks or money orders. Also, on the application, it asks for the account number for each utility. I do not mind the DHHR office verifying the amount of the bill with the electric company; however, the last thing I need is to lose my service when the electric company finds out that I live in the household and owe an outstanding bill. I don’t know about other places but where I live, the electric and water/sewer companies will terminate service if they know the person owing an old bill is living in the home until that old bill is paid.

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    1. If your son is age 22+ and doesn’t share food, then they won’t include him on your account.

      As for utilities, if you pay them I assume they will accept that. You can ask the food stamps worker about that, and also not it in the remarks section on your form. they don’t typically ask for copies of bills, but keep copies of proof that you are paying just in case.

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    1. yes, I got it 🙂

      Hope that was clear:

      SNAP – doesn’t matter how much utilities cost. does matter if utilities are separate or combined with rent.

      SSI – Opposite! doesn’t matter if rent and utilities are separate or combined. Does matter if rent and utilities are set at correct amount.

      To the best of my understanding.

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  2. Hi Sleepygirl, thank you so much for the SNAP info!

    I have one question; we are putting together a leasing/loan agreement for our disabled adult daughter, who lives with us and currently gets SSI and SNAP benefits, which are very small even though she purchases and prepares food herself. We live in a state with a high standard utility deduction. Would it not make more sense for us to reduce her rent slightly and charge a fee for “utilities” instead? For example, instead of charging $500 per month for everything, specify that $425 is rent and $25 is for utilities.

    Any idea if that would satisfy SSI and SNAP rules ?

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    1. Hi DM,

      I just responded in another thread, but it sounds like you have already figured everything out!

      I am not an expert on the rules in every state, but in the states I am familiar with, what you are saying is correct. Paying for utilities separately can lead to much higher SNAP amount.

      For SNAP, I do not think the amount of utilities paid matters, but for SSI it definitely does. If she qualifies for maximum SSI, then she needs to pay her full share of the utilities. If $25 is not a full share of utilities in your household, then her SSI check would be lowered.

      Info on calculating her share: https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/how-to-figure-out-how-much-rent-to-pay-on-ssi/

      Like

    1. Hi Mary,

      It is very possible you will still qualify, but there is no way for me to know. It depends on your income and expenses.

      If you are now paying any utilities, or you start to at some point, you can always call food stamps and request to have your case reassessed based on this new information. This may change your amount of food stamps.

      Like

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