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Getting and Using SNAP Benefits

Produced by Patricia Baker, Laura Gallant, Deborah Harris, Rochelle Hahn Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated January 2010

If you have zero countable income after all deductions, you will get the maximum SNAP benefit listed below based on the size of your household. Amounts current as of January 2016.

Household Size

Max SNAP Benefit















106 C.M.R. §§ 364.600, 364.980. See also Appendix B, Chart 4.

If you have countable net income, you calculate your benefit by multiplying your net monthly income by 0.3 (30 percent). Round up this amount to the nearest dollar. Take this amount and subtract it from the maximum benefit level for a household of your size. The result is the amount of your monthly benefits.

Example: Carl and his family have $500 in net income after allowable deductions. To determine the family’s SNAP benefits, take 30% of the “net income” (30% of $500) and subtract it from the maximum benefit, as follows:

 $ 500 Net Income for Carl’s family
 x .30 (Multiply by 30%)
$ 150 Countable Income
$ 511 Maximum SNAP for 3 persons
      -$150 Countable income (round up)
 $ 361 Monthly SNAP benefits for the Carl’s family

Your first month of SNAP benefits

For the first month you apply, you will get benefits only for the days left in the SNAP month from the date you apply. This is called prorating of benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 364.650. For example, if you apply halfway through your SNAP month, you will get only 50 percent of the monthly benefit. See When will I get my SNAP benefits? for an explanation of “SNAP month.”

If you do not get all the mandatory documents in within 30 days from applying and it was your fault, DTA might pro-rate your SNAP as of the day when they got everything they needed. This means you are getting less than you might otherwise receive. You can challenge this. See What if DTA "prorates" my SNAP with a later start date?

Households with zero benefits

Strange as it may seem, a household of three or more persons can get “approved” for zero SNAP benefits even though the household’s gross income is below the 200% gross income test. This happens when thirty percent of your net income is greater than the maximum benefit amounts. 106 C.M.R. §§ 364.600(A), 365.180(G)(3). DTA will put your case in “suspended” status.

The reason you are “approved” for zero benefit is so you can quickly get benefits without reapplying if you have a decrease in your income, increase in expenses, or change in household size that makes you eligible for benefits. DTA will send you a notice stating that your SNAP case is “open” in the system, but you will not receive any benefits. If you report any changes during the certification period that make you eligible, you do not need to go through a whole reapplication with verifications and an interview. You only have to verify the change (drop in income, increased expenses, a new baby or other household member).

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections: Notices/Forms > Cross Program > SNAP Calculation Page Example

Additional Guidance:

Calculation page included in DTA notices updated to clearly list income, deductions and information taken into account in SNAP math. OLG Transmittal #2015-44 (Aug. 28, 2015). 

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Last Updated January 2016

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