Asset Test for Food Supplement Program

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Maine’s Food Supplement Program (also called Food Stamps or SNAP) has some new rules.  These rules will cause some households to lose benefits if they have more than $5,000 in certain assets.  This is called the SNAP asset limit, or just “asset limit.”

Some assets don’t count.  Your home and one vehicle, for example, do not count toward the new asset limit. 

Assets will not count for households with children under age 18.

What do I need to do? 

Due to this new rule, you may get a notice from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), telling you that you are losing your Food Supplement benefits or will not get them if you are now applying.  The notice will list the assets that put you over the $5000 limit. 

You should respond to the DHHS notice within the time frame given on the notice.  If you don’t respond you may be at risk of losing your food benefits.

Here's what the new rules do:

Households could lose their Food Supplement (FS) benefits if they have certain assets worth $5,000 or more.  This includes seniors, people with disabilities, and households without dependent children.  The rules have not changed for households with children under age 18.

Assets that DO NOT COUNT toward the SNAP asset limit include:

  • The house you live in and the land around it.
  • Real property like land or buildings (besides your home) that you own but are making a good faith effort to sell.
  • One vehicle (Click here to learn more about other vehicles that may be excluded from the asset limit and Click here for information on how the value of additional vehicles is determined).  
  • Household goods such as furniture, appliances, and gift cards.
  • Personal effects - such as clothing and jewelry.
  • Life insurance.
  • Up to $10,000 received as a lump sum and deposited within 30 days in a special account approved by DHHS to be used for:
    • Expenses for education or job training to attend an accredited or approved postsecondary education or training institution;
    • The purchase or repair of a vehicle used for transportation to work or to attend an education or training program;
    • Capital to start a small business for any family member 18 years of age or older;
    • Placement in a family development account authorized by state law, to the extent that the total balance of such an account remains below $10,000;
    • Health care costs of a household member that are medically necessary and that are not covered by public or private insurance;
    • an emergency that may cause the loss of shelter, employment or other basic necessities; or
    • other essential family needs approved by the department.
  • Pension funds and tax-deferred retirement accounts including but not limited to Keogh Plans and simplified employer pension plans (SEP).

There are many other assets that do not count toward the total asset limit.  Click here for a full list.

What counts toward the $5,000 asset limit?

DHHS will look at all of your assets and add up their total value.  You could be over the asset limit because of just one type of asset or a combination of assets.

If you have a bank account worth $5,000 or more or have some other asset like a second car, recreational vehicle or boat, you may be over the asset limit.  This could put you at risk of losing your Food Supplement benefits.

You could also be over the asset because you have a combination of assets.  For example, if you have a savings account worth $3,000 and a second car worth $3,000 you may be over the new asset limit.  This could put you at risk of losing your Food Supplement benefits.

Examples of assets that COUNT towards the $5,000 limit: 

  • Cash, checking and saving accounts, Christmas club accounts, stocks and bonds;
  • Certain personal property including a second vehicle, (some second vehicles don’t count— Click here to learn more about how vehicles are counted toward the asset limit);
  • Lump sum payments (insurance or legal settlements).  But, remember that you are allowed to set aside $10,000 from any lump sum payment in a bank account to be used only for certain  purposes (see list of approved purposes above in “assets that do not count”.)
  • Certificates of Deposits (C.D.s), etc.
  • Any other property besides your home, unless you use it to produce income (see below); and   
  • Recreational vehicles including boats, ATVs and snowmobiles, and other vehicles - even if you use them to help you get around.

Do vehicles count toward the Food Supplement/SNAP asset limit?

Households are allowed one vehicle.  But, other vehicles may also be excluded from the Food Supplement/SNAP asset limit if a vehicle is: 

  • being used as your home;
  • primarily used for income-producing purposes (such as taxi cabs, commercial fishing boats, farm tractors);
  • needed for long-distance employment-related travel.  This does not include a vehicle that you use to get back and forth to work on a daily basis;
  • needed to transport a physically handicapped household member;  or
  • needed to carry most of a household’s fuel or water.

Click here to learn more about how the value of a vehicle that may count as an asset is determined.

Are jointly owned assets counted toward the asset limit?

Certain things you own with someone else will count, unless the household can prove it has access to only a portion of the jointly owned asset.  Joint bank accounts count toward the asset limit if the money comes from household members. If you can show that some of the money in these accounts comes from outside your household, that money may not count toward the asset limit. 

What Can I Do If I am Over the $5000 Limit? You can use that money for things that do not count.  For example, you could buy furniture or make repairs to your home or put money into a retirement account.  See the list above for assets that do not count.  Be sure to keep track of how you spend the money.  Keep receipts!

If you get money or assets that put you over the $5000 limit, report this to DHHS immediately. If you then go back under $5000, you should notify DHHS and provide documentation on what happened to the assets.  

If you are unable to get below the $5000 asset limit, then contact Maine Equal Justice.

Questions?  Call Maine Equal Justice Partners at 207-626-7058 or 1-866-626-7059, Ext 205, for help understanding the new Food Supplement/SNAP asset test rules. 

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