36. Who cannot be a separate SNAP household?

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

People who live under the same roof – whether or not related – who purchase and prepare most of their food together must be in the same SNAP household. They cannot be separate households.

Additionally, under the federal SNAP rules, some people who live together must be also in the same SNAP household, even if they buy and prepare most of their food separately. For example:

  • A child under age 22 who lives with their parent(s) or stepparent(s) must be in the same SNAP household as the parent1.
  • A child (other than a foster child) under age 18 who lives with a responsible adult must be in the same household as the adult – regardless of relationship2. The only exception to this rule is where the adult is not exercising financial support or supervision of that child.
  • A married couple who lives together must be in the same household, even if they never share food or meals together3.

Example 1

Kelly is a single parent, age 20, of a 1-year-old daughter. They live with her parents who work. Kelly receives TAFDC for herself and her baby. However, due to her age, Kelly cannot get her own SNAP benefits. She and the baby must be part of her parents’ SNAP household if they get SNAP, or she must include her parents in her SNAP application. Kelly and her baby are eligible as a separate SNAP household once she turns 22 - if they purchase and prepare their food separately.

Example 2

Katherine is 65 years of age and receives Social Security. She cares for two grandchildren, ages 8 and 12, and receives child support for them. Katherine cannot get separate SNAP benefits for her grandchildren because they are minors, and she provides financial control and supervision for them.

In joint custody situations, the parent who exercises most supervision gets SNAP benefits for child, even if the court order awards custody to the other parent; if equal supervision, the parents decide which parent receives SNAP for the child. DTA Hotline Q&A (Feb. 2012).

How SNAP and TAFDC rules differ

Teen parents

Although a teen parent aged 18 or older can get her own TAFDC grant for herself and her baby when living with her parents, the SNAP rules do not allow the teen to get her own SNAP benefits separate from her parents until she turns age 22. If her parents do not wish to apply for SNAP, the teen parent cannot get SNAP separately from them.

Kinship families

A grandparent, stepparent, aunt, or other relative can receive separate TAFDC for a dependent child, without being on the TAFDC grant or having their income count for TAFDC. However, for SNAP, a relative who cares for a child under 18 in the home cannot get separate SNAP for that child. They and their income must be included in a case with the child.

See caring for a foster child and providing adult foster care to an older adult or person with disabilities on the option to opt out a foster child or foster adult.

Here's a quick summary of the household composition rules:

ScenarioSeparate SNAP
Unrelated persons who purchase and prepare most food
separately from each other.
Related persons – other than spouses or parents and children under age 22 – who purchase and prepare most food separately.Yes
Spouses who live together.
Unmarried parents of children in common who live together.
Persons under 22 years who live at home with their parents.
Children under 18 living with adults who supervise them.

DTA Online Guide

See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON 5 Online Guide for this section.


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