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Questions and Answers About Food Stamps

Q.What expenses does the Food Stamp program consider?
A.The Food Stamp program considers shelter costs, childcare costs, and child support payments when determining eligibility. Senior and disabled people can also count their medical expenses. Food Stamps does not count car notes, car insurance, or medical expenses for persons who are not senior or disabled.
Q.How long will it take to get a decision from DHS once I turn my application in?
A.For most applications, DHS has a maximum of 30 days to issue a decision after an application is turned in. An application must only include basic information to start the 30 days. Some households qualify for expedited Food Stamps, which can only take up to 7 days to be processed.

Can I get emergency Food Stamps?


Certain households are eligible for expedited Food Stamps, which means DHS only has a maximum of 7 days to process the application. If one of the following is true of your situation, you are probably eligible for expedited Food Stamps:

1. Your gross monthly income is $150 or less and you have less than $100 in cash or savings, OR
2. Your gross monthly income plus all of your cash and savings are less than your monthly housing and utility bills, OR
3. You are a migrant or seasonal worker who is between jobs

If your application alone shows that you are eligible for expedited Food Stamps, DHS must give you Food Stamps within 7 days even if you don’t have all the papers and proof of income that DHS asks for. You will have to provide DHS with all of this information in order to receive Food Stamps after your first expedited issuance.

Q.What if my caseworker won’t call me back?

Sometimes it is difficult for DHS recipients or applicants to reach their caseworkers. There are many times when it is very important to reach a caseworker to report changes in income or other information on time. At other times, you may need something from your caseworker. Here are some tips for you if you are having trouble reaching your caseworker:

1. Leave a message telling your worker WHEN and WHERE you can be reached, and give several different times. Then be where you say you will be.

2. If you have tried to reach your work a few times already, or if the message is urgent, call the caseworker’s supervisor. If the supervisor will not call you back after several tries, call the supervisor’s supervisor.

3. Send the information or request in writing, but keep a copy if possible. In the letter, tell the caseworker how many times you called and left messages and the times you waited for him or her to call you back. If there is a deadline, you may need to take the letter to DHS in person instead of mailing it. Make a photocopy of the letter at your post office or library and keep a copy for yourself. Date and sign the letter and put your case number on it. In the letter, be direct, specific and polite.

4. See if your local legal services or legal aid office is able to help you.

5. Schedule a walk-in appointment.

6. If there is a time deadline involved, request a hearing in writing. You can use the DHS form for this or simply write a note saying “I request a hearing” and tell what you want the hearing about (such as “denial of Food Stamps”). Put the date and your case number on the hearing request and sign your name. Mail or bring it to DHS. You must make sure DHS receives your hearing request within 90 days after you received notice that DHS is denying, stopping, or reducing any benefit or service. If DHS is cutting or stopping benefits or services, you must request a hearing within 10 days to keep benefits at their current level while you wait for a hearing.

7. Go to the DHS office and apply, if you need benefits or services that you do not currently receive (for example, you receive Medicaid and you need Food Stamps). Do not delay. In general, the sooner you apply, the sooner you will get your benefits. 

8. If you keep having trouble with a caseworker, you should send a letter to the supervisor explaining all the times you have tried to call and the problems you have had. Remember that it is very important to be somewhere the caseworker can reach you at certain times, especially if you don’t have a phone.

9. If the supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor are not helpful, or you see continuing problems in the local DHS office’s service to clients, contact the DHS Zone Office that covers your county or district.

10. If both the caseworker and the supervisors do not return your calls, or you believe the worker and supervisor have made a mistake in applying policy in your case, call the DHS Citizens Inquiry Unit at (517) 373-0707. Be ready to give them your DHS case number. Ask them to call you back if this is long distance for you. Remember: Do not delay asking for a hearing if you have a close deadline.

11. Remember that if you are helping someone else, DHS caseworkers are not supposed to talk to anyone about someone else’s case unless that person has sign a form giving DHS permission to release information about his or her case.

Q.Can someone else apply for Food Stamps for me on my behalf?

Yes. All Food Stamp applicants and recipients have the right to designate an authorized representative. The authorized representative must be over 18 years old. The authorized representative can fill out the application for the household, attend the interview, and give DHS the information it needs to decide if the household is eligible for Food Stamps. It is very important that an authorized representative be someone honest, reliable, and have full knowledge of the household’s income and expense information.

To designate a person as an authorized representative, a household must simple write a note to DHS saying that a particular person has permission to be their authorized representative.  Click on the link below to go to our web site, where you can get a sample authorized representative form.  The household can tell DHS at any time that they don’t want that person to be their authorized representative anymore.

Q.Can someone else do my grocery shopping for me with my Food Stamps?

Yes. If you have an authorized representative, you can request an additional Bridge Card for that person. Never give your own Bridge Card or PIN to another person to use.

A separate Bridge Card will not be sent to the authorized representative unless a recipient requests an additional card. The authorized representative’s Bridge Card will have both the recipient’s name and the authorized representative’s name printed on the card. The card will also have the letters ARFS stamped on it, indicating that the card is to be used by the authorized representative. The card, along with a separate PIN will be mailed to the Food Stamp recipient, not the authorized representative, who may then choose whether to give it to their representative.


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.