26. Definition of “income”
Counting real income
In order to receive food stamp benefits, most households must have less income than the gross and net income limits. [7 U.S.C. § 2014; 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(a); MPP § 63-503.321(a)(QR).] The food stamp office first will review a household’s total “gross monthly income” to determine if it is below the gross income limit, which is 130 percent of the federal poverty level. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.9(a), 273.10(e)(2)(i)(B); MPP § 63-503.326(QR).] (The section about income limits explains how the food stamp office does this.) If it is, the food stamp office then will look at the household’s “net income” (i.e., income after it subtracts some of the household’s expenses) to decide how many food stamps it will get. The household’s net income must be below 100 percent of the federal poverty level. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(a)(2); MPP § 63-503.322(a)(QR).]
The food stamp office will want to know about all income that each person in the food stamp household gets in the so-called “data month” (i.e., the second month of the quarter) and expects to get in the next quarter. (For a detailed explanation of how this works, see the section about quarterly reporting.) The food stamp household must provide this information. [MPP § 63-505.2 (QR).]
This does not mean that the office will count all money that the household gets as income. [7 U.S.C. § 2014(d); 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c); MPP §§ 63-502.12, 63-502.2.] Some income does not count. Except in cases where the Food Stamp Act clearly requires counting something as income, only income that is actually available to the household should be counted. Some income is only partially exempt, and the remainder counted. An example of this is certain financial aid – some is entirely excluded, and some is included as unearned income only to the extent not used for educational expenses. [MPP § 63-502.2(e).] The food stamp office should explain these rules. Child support paid directly to the household is unearned income — but not if it is assigned to the state (such as when it is a CalWORKs family). 7 C.F.R. §273.9(b)(5)(ii); this includes the $50 pass through (Child Support Cooperation incentive) given to CalWORKs families. MPP § 63-502.1(b).
The food stamp office also will want to know what income comes from working (what income is “earned income”) and what income you get for some other reason (what income is “unearned income”). [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.9(b)(1) and (2); MPP § 63-502.1.] The food stamp office deducts more expenses from earned income than it does from unearned income when it figures how many food stamp benefits to give the households.
Military Payments: Some military pay, such as combat pay, is not counted. (See SNAP Program Letter and ACL 05-04 re: exclusion, and 7 C.F.R. 246 re: WIC exclusion.) Many other payments, however, are treated as income. Typical payments treated as income are the Family Self-Sufficiency Allowance (FSSA), and the basic housing allowance, for off-base housing. (See ACIN I-79-03EII for state policy based on 7 CFR 273.9 (vii).) For pay to deployed individuals, only that portion of the pay which is made actually available to the household will count as income against the household.
A household member who is out of the home and living with a military unit is not considered part of the food stamp household. Any income or resources the military member actually provides to the household. however, is counted as income to the household. MPP §63-503.45.