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General Eligibility Rules

We are in the process of updating the SNAP Advocacy Guide, so some of the information is no longer current.  In the meantime, you can read or download a pdf of the 2022 guide from

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed January 2020

What is a SNAP household or assistance unit?

A SNAP household or assistance unit is either a person living alone or a group of people living together. The SNAP rules look at whether persons who live together customarily purchase and prepare” food together. 106 C.M.R.§361.200.

Needs-based programs such as TAFDC, EAEDC, SSI, and MassHealth, consider the legal responsibility of persons who live together: spouses to spouse, parents to minor children. The SNAP program is different. SNAP looks at the income of persons living together who have a legal obligation to support as well as other individuals who buy and share food together. This is a fundamental concept of the SNAP program, but it can confuse both low-income households and advocates because eligibility differs from other needs-based programs.

See Can I get benefits separately from other people I live with? and Who cannot be a separate SNAP household? for the “household composition” rules about who must be included in your SNAP household.

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