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How to Apply for Food Stamps

3 steps to apply:
1.  Fill out an application and turn it in to DHS
2.  Attend an interview with a caseworker unless you qualify for an exception to this rule. (see below)
3.  Verify your income and expenses

If you have problems with any these steps, ask your local DHS office for help.  You can also receive more information and help from the statewide Food Stamp Helpline offered by the Center for Civil Justice.  Call 1-800-481-4989.

1.  The Application
The application for Food Stamps is the application for all DHS programs.  It is a white booklet called the “DHS 1171” form.  You can pick up an application at your local Department of Human Services office or you can call your local office and ask them to mail you an application.  You can also print a copy of the application by going to  the DHS application on-line.   You can submit your application by mail or fax

If you cannot get to the office, you can call DHS and ask them to send you an application in the mail.  After you fill out the application, you can drop it off at your local DHS office, send it to the office in the mail, or fax it to your local DHS office. 

DHS will accept faxed applications for the Food Stamp program, but NOT for other programs including FIP, Medicaid and Child Day Care.  If you want to apply for more than one program and you fax your application for Food Stamps, you will also have to submit a copy of your application by mail or in person for the other programs.

If you need help filling out the application, ask DHS for help.  DHS is required to help you with the application if you ask.  Even if you don’t have all of the information that the application asks for, or if you don’t understand some of the questions, you should submit your application with the following minimum information as soon as possible:

(or statement of homelessness)

When you turn in an application with just these pieces of information, DHS’s timeline for processing your Food Stamp application begins.

2.  The Interview
Once you turn in your application, a DHS caseworker will contact you to schedule an interview.  Usually the interview is done in person.  If you are elderly or disabled, or you have a “hardship” that prevents you from attending an in-person interview (such as childcare or transportation problems, or a work or school schedule that conflicts with DHS’s office hours) you can ask your caseworker to do a telephone interview instead.  During the interview, the caseworker will review the application and ask questions about anything that is confusing or unclear.

3.  Verfication
When someone applies for Food Stamps, that person must verify (prove) that certain information they reported on the application is true.  For example, persons applying for Food Stamps must verify their income and certain expenses, such as rent and medical expenses.

At the interview, your caseworker will give you a checklist of information that DHS needs for verification.  You will have 10 days to supply your caseworker with that information.  If you have trouble getting some of the verification that your caseworker has requested, ask your caseworker for help.  DHS must extend the 10-day deadline at least once if you are having difficulty getting the verification.

There are different ways to prove or verify information.  DHS cannot deny or end your Food Stamps just because you are not able to provide a particular type of verification.  For example, DHS cannot require a birth certificate when you have other information that verifies your identity, such as a driver’s license or Social Security card.  DHS cannot deny or end your Food Stamps because a third party failed to provide certain verification, such as a landlord who did not verify your rent.

You can receive more Food Stamps if you pay for certain expenses.
Money that has to be spent on certain necessities such as housing, child care or medical care is no longer available to pay for food.  The Food Stamp program takes this into account when determining how much a household receives in benefits.

If you or someone in your home pays for any of the expenses listed below, be sure to write down the amount in your application or tell your caseworker.  It pays to bring papers to prove these deductions!  When in doubt, bring what you can.

What expenses does the Food Stamp program consider?

1)  Housing and shelter expenses
, including: house, lot rent, rental property, mobile home, apartment rent, utilities such as heat, electricity and phone.  You can use papers such as leases, rent receipts, HUD statements, contracts, tax bills, insurance bills, mortgage papers, lot rental forms, condominium fees or dues, utility bills, etc. to prove these expenses.

2)  Child support payments that you or someone in your household pays to another household.  This can include payments made to third parties that benefit the children.  You can use papers such as court orders, legal separation agreements and/or withholding forms to prove these expenses.

3)  Child care that you or someone in your household pays for in order to work, look for work, or attend school or training.  Unless DHS thinks the expenses are questionable, you do not have to prove child care expenses.  If your caseworker asks for paperwork, you can use bills or written statements.

4)  In-home care for a household member who is disabled or ill.  Unless DHS thinks the expenses are questionable, you do not have to prove dependent care expenses.  If DHS asks for paperwork, you can use bills or written statements.

5)  Medical expenses for elderly (60+) or disabled household members, including doctors' bills, transportation expenses, prescriptions, supplies or other necessary medical costs.  You can use bills, insurance stubs, statements or receipts to prove these expenses.

Applying for Food Stamps in an Emergency Situation
DHS is usually allowed to take up to 30 days to process an application for Food Stamp benefits.  However, households with very low income must have their application processed in 7 days.  This is called emergency or "expedited" Food Stamps. 

If your monthly income is less than $150 per month, or your income is less than your housing and shelter expenses (including utilities), you may be eligible for expedited Food Stamps.  If your application for Food Stamps shows that you meet the criteria for expedited Food Stamps, you will only have to show DHS a few papers.  However, in order to continue receiving Food Stamps for more than one month, you will need to provide DHS with more information at a later date.

In order to receive expedited Food Stampsl you must show DHS proof of:
1)  Your identity, and
2)  Your address (but you do not need to prove this if you are homeless)

You can use a driver's license, school or state-issued ID, document indicating receipt of benefits, ID for health benefits, voter card, wage stubs, birth certificate, Social Security card or number to prove your identity and/or address.  You can also use an ID with your name and address, a mortgage or rent receipt, or utility bills to prove your address.

Do I have any rights when I apply for Food Stamps?

YES.  You have the right to get help from DHS to gather the papers you need, if you ask for help.

YES.  You have 10 calendar days to provide any other information DHS needs.

YES.  You also have other rights that DHS must respect.

If you think your rights have been violated, you should request a hearing and seek legal advice.

Information Not Legal Advice. This web site has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this web site is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation.