Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Who Can Get SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program that helps people pay for their food, if they meet income limits and other requirements. When you apply for SNAP, you need to give details about how much money everyone in your household makes. If you make more money than the program allows, you don't qualify for SNAP.

The most important factors to decide if you can get SNAP, and how much you get, are:

  • The number of people who live and eat together (called a SNAP household or “unit”)
  • Income and expenses

Whether you can get SNAP benefits may also depend on things like if you (or someone in your household) has a disability, or is 60 years old or older. This article focuses on the rules for people with disabilities.

Your SNAP “Unit” or Household

When you apply, the first thing SNAP does is to decide who is in your household unit. A SNAP unit is typically a family, but not always. A unit can also be an individual living alone, or any group of people who live together and buy and make their food together.

The rules say that some people must be counted as part of your unit if they are:

  • Your spouse who lives with you
  • Any child under 18 who depends financially on you or any adult member of your unit, or
  • Your own child under age 22 who lives with you (If you care for foster children, you can choose to include them in your unit, but it's not required).

Others are typically not included as part of your SNAP unit if they are:

  • A roomer: someone who lives with you and pays for lodging (a place to stay), but not for their meals.
  • A boarder: a person who pays you a reasonable monthly amount for both their lodging (a place to stay) and their meals. If a boarder is not paying a reasonable amount, they must be included in your SNAP unit. Learn more about boarders and SNAP, including who cannot be considered a boarder.
  • A live-in-attendant: someone who lives with you in order to provide personal services like medical, housekeeping, or child care. Your spouse, your child under 22, or a child under 18 (who is under your parental care and control) cannot be considered a live-in-attendant.)
  • A student attending college, vocational training, or other higher education who doesn't meet at least one of the requirements to be included in the SNAP unit.
  • Someone who lives with you, but does not usually buy and prepare food with you.

It is possible to have two SNAP units living in the same house, especially if a member of one of the units has a disability or is blind, or if you are not related and you buy and prepare your food separately. For example, if you and your spouse live with another couple who are not related to you and each couple buys and prepares their own separate meals, you can be counted as separate SNAP units.

Once SNAP decides who counts as part of your household unit, they look at your household income. To keep things simple, this article calls a SNAP unit a household.

Income and Resources

If you have a disability or are 60 years old or older, the state looks at your income and resources to decide if you qualify for SNAP.

The Resource Limit

Resources are things you own, like a car, home, or money in the bank. To get SNAP, you must stay below the resource limit by having a limited number of resources. In general, the resource limit for people with disabilities is $4,250. The home you live in and one vehicle are not counted as resources.

Note: If your disability started before you turned 26, you can open an ABLE account where you can save up to $18,000 each year and that money will not be counted as resources by SNAP. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

Gross and Net Income Limits

The SNAP income limits depend on the size of your household. There are two limits and if your household income is below one of them, you may qualify for benefits:

  • The gross income limit is 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). Gross income includes all of your household income, before taxes and deductions.
  • The net income limit is 100% of FPG. Net income is your gross income minus the allowable deductions described below.

The Illinois Department of Human Services provides a chart of SNAP Maximum Monthly Income Guidelines (also available in Spanish).


To figure out your net income for SNAP, take your gross household income and subtract the following deductions if they apply to your household:

  • 20% of your earned income
  • A standard deduction of $194 if three or fewer people live in your home, or $204 if four or more people live in your home
  • A dependent care deduction, when you need dependent care to be able to work, or get training or education
  • The cost of medical expenses for elderly or disabled members of the household, if the cost is more than $35 for the month and is not paid by insurance or someone else.
  • Legally owed child support payments
  • Depending on your income, you may also deduct utilities, rent, or mortgage payments and interest, and taxes on your home

See the full list of possible deductions.

SNAP Income and Benefits Guidelines

The Illinois Department of Human Services has an online SNAP Eligibility Calculator. Enter details about your household size, income, assets, and expenses, and the calculator says if you might qualify for SNAP benefits. (You still need to apply separately.)

Learn more about monthly benefit amounts and how they are paid.

Learn more