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SNAP COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

SNAP COVID-19 Information

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general

Application Information

What food assistance is available to me?

If you are not a current SNAP recipient, you can apply online for regular SNAP benefits. More information on this can be found at www.dcfs.la.gov/getSNAP

Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, DCFS is also issuing supplemental SNAP benefits to SNAP households who do not already receive the maximum monthly allotment for households of their size. For more information about supplemental SNAP benefits, see below.

Are we going to have D-SNAP (Disaster SNAP) benefits in response to the coronavirus pandemic?

There is no D-SNAP at this time. The federal government is using other options for providing additional food assistance through the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (see above).If any additional options become available, we will make announcements on our DCFS website and Facebook page.

If you have a food need and believe you meet eligibility guidelines, you can apply for regular SNAP.

How can I apply for SNAP?

You can apply for regular SNAP benefits online through the CAFÉ customer portal, or by downloading a paper application and submitting it to DCFS by U.S. Mail or fax. Applications cannot be emailed. For instructions on how to apply for SNAP, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/getSNAP or text GETSNAP (no spaces) to 898-211. If a SNAP household is eligible for supplemental SNAP benefits, the benefits will be automatically loaded onto the household’s EBT cards. You can also find tips, how-to videos and more at http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/snap-how-to-apply

How is SNAP eligibility determined? How much could I receive in benefits?

To receive SNAP benefits, households must meet certain resource and income eligibility standards. In addition, a family's SNAP benefit amount depends on the number of people in the SNAP household and the amount of their net income. Click here to view a table showing the maximum SNAP allotments by household size: http://www.dcfs.louisiana.gov/page/584.

Do you consider assets/resources when determining SNAP eligibility?

It depends. Individuals who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or households including anyone who receives Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program (FITAP), Kinship Care Subsidy Program (KCSP) or Strategies to Empower People (STEP) Program benefits, are exempt from the SNAP resource limit.

DCFS is also using Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) to expand SNAP eligibility to applicants who have excess assets but who are otherwise income eligible. If a household is BBCE-eligible, assets will not be counted in determining SNAP eligibility.

Certain restrictions do apply. If household members have been disqualified (for program violations, failure to comply with work registration requirements, noncompliance with SSI-required treatment for addiction/alcoholism, conviction of certain crimes, receipt of substantial lottery/gambling winnings) or if a household member is otherwise ineligible (e.g., an ineligible student, ineligible alien, or on strike), Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility will not apply and assets will be considered in determining SNAP eligibility.

Assets of households who are not BBCE-eligible, and who are not otherwise exempt from the resource limit, must be counted in determining SNAP eligibility.

Assets include things like bank accounts, cash, certificates of deposit (CDs), stocks and bonds. More information on SNAP eligibility and resource limits.

Do coronavirus stimulus checks count as income when determining SNAP eligibility?

No. The coronavirus stimulus checks (also known as Economic Impact Payments) are actually refundable tax credits and do not count as income.

For more information on Economic Impact Payments, visit the IRS at www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments.

If I receive unemployment benefits, will that make me ineligible for SNAP?

Maybe. It depends on how much you receive and your household size.

While the USDA allows certain disaster unemployment assistance to be excluded from income for SNAP purposes, the agency has advised states that pandemic unemployment payments authorized under the CARES Act do not meet the same criteria and must be counted as income when calculating SNAP eligibility.

To determine whether your unemployment benefits would make you ineligible for SNAP, multiply your total pre-tax weekly unemployment benefit by 4.333 (the number of weeks in a month) to get your monthly income from unemployment. For example, if you receive the state maximum of $247, plus the extra $600 authorized in response to coronavirus, that would be $847 X 4.333 = $3,670 per month. That alone exceeds the maximum gross income allowable for families of 5 or fewer people. If there is other household income as well, the combined total of all income sources would be calculated before comparing to the income limits for eligibility.

For more information about what income and resources are counted in determining SNAP eligibility, and to see maximum income levels by household size, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/page/snap-eligibility.

I've lost work and income due to the coronavirus pandemic, but did not receive a formal termination notice from my employer. How can I show loss of income when applying for SNAP benefits?

DCFS is seeking guidance from our federal partners at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service about situations where a SNAP applicant has suffered a loss of income through a business closure and cannot reach the business to get verification of their termination or income loss. In the meantime, we are working with applicants to verify their loss of income through whatever means possible. For more about verifications and what kinds of proof are needed, click here: http://www.dcfs.la.gov/page/204.

I'm having trouble uploading my verification documents to CAFÉ. Are there other options for sending my documents to DCFS?

DCFS is upgrading CAFE, but until then, not all devices are compatible with the online system. If you are unable to upload your documents in CAFE, you can send them using one of the following options:

NOTE: Applications cannot be emailed. They must be filled out online in CAFE, or sent to us by fax or U.S. Mail at the below number/address. Only supporting documents can be emailed.

  • Fax the documents to (225) 663-3164
  • Mail copies of the documents to:

DCFS Economic Stability

P.O. Box 260031

Baton Rouge, LA 70826

You should also include your name, date of birth, your mailing address and the last four digits only of your Social Security number. If you already have a SNAP EBT card, you should include your case ID number (the small number below the 16-digit number on your card).

After I apply, how and when will I find out if I'm approved?

You will be notified by mail once an eligibility decision is made on your application. DCFS has 30 days to process your application. However, if you are determined eligible for SNAP benefits, you will be eligible from the date of application.

I applied for SNAP and haven't heard back. How can I check the status of my application?

Because of the great volume of applications DCFS has been receiving, it may take 30 days to process applications. Providing all required documentation at the time of application can help expedite the process. More about what must be verified and examples of proof. If we do not receive all required documentation to make a determination on your case, you will receive a call and/or letter from your caseworker, requesting the needed documentation.

After you apply, you can check on the status of your application through our Call Center’s automated system (1-888-524-3578) or through our online CAFÉ customer portal at www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe. After signing into your CAFÉ account, go to the “My Applications” page and click the status link next to the application. Possible status updates include: Submitted, Received, Incomplete, Pending, Awaiting Verifications, Verifications Received, Approved, Denied and Unavailable. Please note that, due to the volume of applications we have received during this pandemic, it may take some time for your application status to be updated (for example, from the time you send your verification documents until your caseworker can review them and mark your case as “verifications received.”) Please be patient as we work to process cases as timely as possible.

If you have additional questions about your application or case, you may:

  • Call our Customer Service Center at 1-888-LA-HELP-U (1-888-524-3578), 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Please be aware that wait times may be long.
  • Email our Customer Service staff at LAHelpU.DCFS@la.gov. Please do NOT send more than 1 email on the same issue. Multiple emails will only clog the system and delay response times.

I faxed/mailed/emailed in my verification documents. How can I know whether you received them?

You can check on the status of your application through our Call Center’s automated system (1-888-524-3578) or through our online CAFÉ customer portal at www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe. After signing into your CAFÉ account, go to the “My Applications” page and click the status link next to the application. Possible status updates include: Submitted, Received, Incomplete, Pending, Awaiting Verifications, Verifications Received, Approved, Denied and Unavailable.

PLEASE NOTE:  Due to the high volume of applications we have receive, it may take some time for your application status to be updated (for example, from the time you send your verification documents until your caseworker can review them and mark your case as “verifications received.”)  Please be patient as we work to process cases as timely as possible.

How can I get personal assistance with my SNAP benefits?

Call the LAHelpU Customer Service Center (888) 524-3578. The regular hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., M-F.

  • To speak with a customer service representative, select your language, then press these numbers in sequence: 3-1-3-6.

Or email the Customer Service Center at LAHelpU.DCFS@la.gov with a brief explanation of your reason for writing. 

  • If you are a current SNAP recipient, please include your full name as it appears in our records, all of your contact information and your case identification number (the smaller number below the 16-digit number on the front of your EBT card).
  • If you are not a current SNAP recipient, please include your full name as it appears in our records, all of your contact information, your date of birth and the first four digits of your Social Security number.

How can I request a fair hearing to review the outcome of my application?

Clients have 90 days from the date of DCFS's decision on a SNAP case to appeal the department's decision. The decision letter you receive from DCFS will include instructions for filing an appeal. You will need to complete and sign the section below "Fair Hearing Information" and return it to the address indicated in the letter.



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EBT Cards 

When will I receive my EBT card?

If your application is still pending on the 21st day after your application date, an EBT card will be mailed to you automatically. This will ensure you have a card in-hand in case your application is ultimately approved, so that you can access benefits more quickly.

PLEASE NOTE:  No benefits will be loaded onto the card unless/until your application is approved, so you may receive a card with $0 benefits loaded onto it. The benefits would then be loaded onto the card the day after your application is approved.

If your application is approved before the 21st day after your application date, an EBT card will be mailed to you the day after your application is approved. The card will already be loaded with the amount of benefits for which you have been approved.

If your application meets the federal criteria for expedited services, an EBT card will be mailed to you when your application is received by DCFS. Please note that you may receive an EBT card without benefits on it, even if your application is subsequently denied. Benefits will be loaded onto your card if/when your application is approved.

I received an EBT card, but then I received a letter saying my application had been denied. Why did I receive a card?

EBT cards are mailed to applicants automatically if their application is still pending on the 21st day after their application date. We do this to ensure clients have a card in-hand as soon as possible, in case their application is approved, so benefits can be accessed more quickly.

If you are determined to be ineligible and your application is denied, however, no benefits will be loaded onto the card.

I received my EBT card, but there were no benefits on the card. When will benefits be loaded?

EBT cards are mailed to applicants automatically if their application is still pending on the 21st day after their application date. We do this to ensure clients have a card in-hand as soon as possible, in case their application is approved, so benefits can be accessed more quickly. However, no benefits are loaded onto the card until the application is approved.

If your application is approved, your benefits will be loaded onto your EBT card the next day.

My relative/friend/neighbor who receives SNAP benefits is staying home during the pandemic for health or other reasons. Can I do their grocery shopping for them using their EBT card?

Yes. You may use a relative/friend/neighbor’s EBT card to go grocery shopping for them if they give you their card and their PIN.

PLEASE NOTE: Louisiana EBT cards cannot be used for online grocery shopping. The shopping must be done in-store with the card and PIN.



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Redeterminations

I received a letter telling me to reapply for benefits in June. Have you started doing redeterminations again?

DCFS is conducting redeterminations for July 2020. You might have received a letter directing you to complete your reapplication by June 15. However, because of CAFE upgrades, clients will not be able to do their redeterminations in CAFE until June 15 or later. Please mark your calendar and check by then.

It's time for my redetermination or simplified report, but the system won't let me submit. What do I do?

If you have previously bookmarked or saved the link to our CAFE customer portal on your computer or phone, you may have linked to our old CAFE Customer Portal rather than our new, upgraded CAFE Self-Service Portal. To figure out which version of CAFE you are viewing, look at the top of the CAFE webpage and see whether it says "CAFE Customer Portal" (old system) or "CAFE Self-Service Portal" (upgraded system). If you are currently in the old system, you can reach the new system by going to www.dcfs.la.gov/cafe.

NOTE: If this is your first time visiting our upgraded CAFE Self-Service Portal, you will need to create a new CAFE account (even if you have an active SNAP case). For directions on how to do that, please watch this tutorial on How to Create a CAFE Account.



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SNAP Text Messages

I received a text message claiming to be from DCFS. Is the text legit?

From time to time, DCFS sends text messages to SNAP recipients and/or applicants with helpful information regarding benefits or other updates, as appropriate. The text is marked as coming from LADCFS.

How can I stop receiving text messages from DCFS?

SNAP recipients/applicants can opt out of receiving text messages from DCFS by replying "STOP" to the text message. Please note that by opting out of text messages, you may miss timely information about benefit changes in response to coronavirus. Please be sure to regularly log into your CAFÉ account and check your messages there to ensure that you receive important notices regarding your benefits. Please also continue to visit the DCFS website at www.dcfs.la.gov for updates.



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Supplemental SNAP Benefits

July 2020 Supplemental SNAP Benefits

DCFS has received federal approval to issue supplemental SNAP benefits for July 2020. Families who are receiving SNAP for July, but who don't already receive the maximum allotment for their household size, will receive a supplement for July to bring them to the max.

For current SNAP recipients, July supplemental benefits are scheduled to be loaded onto their EBT cards on July 17. DCFS will communicate with SNAP recipients about these supplements closer to the date.

Those who have applied for SNAP, but aren't yet certified as eligible to receive benefits, will have July supplements loaded onto their cards on a rolling weekly basis after their applications are approved.

SNAP benefits can be used for up to 365 days after they are issued.

Find out what the max benefit is for your household size at http://www.dcfs.la.gov/snap-allotments.

What are supplemental SNAP benefits?

Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and with authorization from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, DCFS can issue additional benefits to SNAP households to bring them up to the maximum monthly allotment for a household of their size.

By federal law, households already receiving the maximum monthly allotment for their household size cannot receive supplemental SNAP benefits

What are the maximum monthly allotments for SNAP households?

You can find the maximum monthly SNAP allotments per household here.

How much will I receive in supplemental SNAP benefits?

SNAP households will receive supplemental SNAP benefits in an amount that will bring them up to the maximum monthly allotment for a household of their size.

For example, for a household of 4 people, the maximum monthly allotment is $646. If that household normally receives $400 in monthly SNAP benefits based on their income and expenses, they will now receive an additional $246 to bring their total monthly benefit up to the $646 max for their household size, for each month that supplemental SNAP benefits are issued.

For a list of the maximum monthly SNAP allotments by household size, see the previous question.

Do I have to use my supplemental SNAP benefits right away?

No. SNAP benefits, including supplements, are good for up to 365 days from the date of issuance.



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Work Requirements

Have the work requirements for SNAP been suspended due to the coronavirus?

The rule that SNAP recipients who are classified as Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) can receive only three months of SNAP benefits without meeting federal work requirements has been temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. (The rule would have gone into effect for 50 non-waived parishes in Louisiana on April 1.)

Mandatory work participation through the LaJET program in Orleans, Caddo, Ouachita, and Rapides parishes has also been suspended.


SNAP Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its agencies, offices and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, disability, age, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.) should contact the agency (state or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form (AD-3027) found online at: How to File a Complaint, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

1. Mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

2. Fax: (202) 690-7442; or

3. Email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.