United States Code
USC most recently checked for updates: Sep 29, 2023
As used in this chapter, the term:
“Access device” means any card, plate, code, account number, or other means of access, including point of sale devices, that can be used, alone or in conjunction with another access device, to obtain payments, allotments, benefits, money, goods, or other things of value, or that can be used to initiate a transfer of funds under this chapter.
“Allotment” means the total value of benefits a household is authorized to receive during each month.
“Allowable medical expenses” means expenditures for (1) medical and dental care, (2) hospitalization or nursing care (including hospitalization or nursing care of an individual who was a household member immediately prior to entering a hospital or nursing home), (3) prescription drugs when prescribed by a licensed practitioner authorized under State law and over-the-counter medication (including insulin) when approved by a licensed practitioner or other qualified health professional, (4) health and hospitalization insurance policies (excluding the costs of health and accident or income maintenance policies), (5) medicare premiums related to coverage under title XVIII of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 1395 et seq.], (6) dentures, hearing aids, and prosthetics (including the costs of securing and maintaining a seeing eye dog), (7) eye glasses prescribed by a physician skilled in eye disease or by an optometrist, (8) reasonable costs of transportation necessary to secure medical treatment or services, and (9) maintaining an attendant, homemaker, home health aide, housekeeper, or child care services due to age, infirmity, or illness.
The term “benefit” means the value of supplemental nutrition assistance provided to a household by means of—
an electronic benefit transfer under section 2016(h) of this title; or
other means of providing assistance, as determined by the Secretary.
The term “benefit issuer” means any office of the State agency or any person, partnership, corporation, organization, political subdivision, or other entity with which a State agency has contracted for, or to which it has delegated functional responsibility in connection with, the issuance of benefits to households.
“Certification period” means the period for which households shall be eligible to receive benefits. The certification period shall not exceed 12 months, except that the certification period may be up to 24 months if all adult household members are elderly or disabled. A State agency shall have at least 1 contact with each certified household every 12 months. The limits specified in this subsection may be extended until the end of any transitional benefit period established under section 2020(s) of this title.
“Coupon” means any coupon, stamp, type of certificate, authorization card, cash or check issued in lieu of a coupon.
“Drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation program” means any such program conducted by a private nonprofit organization or institution, or a publicly operated community mental health center, under part B of title XIX of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 300x et seq.) to provide treatment that can lead to the rehabilitation of drug addicts or alcoholics.
The term “EBT card” means an electronic benefit transfer card issued under section 2016(h) of this title.
“Elderly or disabled member” means a member of a household who—
is sixty years of age or older;
receives Federally or State administered supplemental assistance of the type described in section 1616(a) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1382e(a)), interim assistance pending receipt of supplemental security income, disability-related medical assistance under title XIX of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396 et seq.), or disability-based State general assistance benefits, if the Secretary determines that such benefits are conditioned on meeting disability or blindness criteria at least as stringent as those used under title XVI of the Social Security Act;
receives disability or blindness payments under title I, II, X, XIV, or XVI of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 301 et seq., 401 et seq., 1201 et seq., 1351 et seq., 1381 et seq.] or receives disability retirement benefits from a governmental agency because of a disability considered permanent under section 221(i) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 421(i));
is a veteran who—
has a service-connected or non-service-connected disability which is rated as total under title 38; or
is considered in need of regular aid and attendance or permanently housebound under such title;
is a surviving spouse of a veteran and—
is considered in need of regular aid and attendance or permanently housebound under title 38; or
is entitled to compensation for a service-connected death or pension benefits for a non-service-connected death under title 38, and has a disability considered permanent under section 221(i) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 421(i));
is a child of a veteran and—
is considered permanently incapable of self-support under section 1314 of title 38; or
is entitled to compensation for a service-connected death or pension benefits for a non-service-connected death under title 38, and has a disability considered permanent under section 221(i) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 421(i)); or
is an individual receiving an annuity under section 2(a)(1)(iv) or 2(a)(1)(v) of the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974 (45 U.S.C. 231a(a)(1)(iv) or 231a(a)(1)(v)), if the individual’s service as an employee under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1974 [45 U.S.C. 231 et seq.], after
December 31, 1936, had been included in the term “employment” as defined in the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 301 et seq.], and if an application for disability benefits had been filed.
“Food” means (1) any food or food product for home consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption other than those authorized pursuant to clauses (3), (4), (5), (7), (8), and (9) of this subsection, and any deposit fee in excess of the amount of the State fee reimbursement (if any) required to purchase any food or food product contained in a returnable bottle or can, regardless of whether the fee is included in the shelf price posted for the food or food product, (2) seeds and plants for use in gardens to produce food for the personal consumption of the eligible household, (3) in the case of those persons who are sixty years of age or over or who receive supplemental security income benefits or disability or blindness payments under title I, II, X, XIV, or XVI of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 301 et seq., 401 et seq., 1201 et seq., 1351 et seq., 1381 et seq.], and their spouses, meals prepared by and served in senior citizens’ centers, apartment buildings occupied primarily by such persons, public or private nonprofit establishments (eating or otherwise) that feed such persons, private establishments that contract with the appropriate agency of the State to offer meals for such persons at concessional prices subject to section 2018(h) of this title, and meals prepared for and served to residents of federally subsidized housing for the elderly, (4) in the case of persons sixty years of age or over and persons who are physically or mentally handicapped or otherwise so disabled that they are unable adequately to prepare all of their meals, meals prepared for and delivered to them (and their spouses) at their home by a public or private nonprofit organization or by a private establishment that contracts with the appropriate State agency to perform such services at concessional prices subject to section 2018(h) of this title, (5) in the case of narcotics addicts or alcoholics, and their children, served by drug addiction or alcoholic treatment and rehabilitation programs, meals prepared and served under such programs, (6) in the case of certain eligible households living in Alaska, equipment for procuring food by hunting and fishing, such as nets, hooks, rods, harpoons, and knives (but not equipment for purposes of transportation, clothing, or shelter, and not firearms, ammunition, and explosives) if the Secretary determines that such households are located in an area of the State where it is extremely difficult to reach stores selling food and that such households depend to a substantial extent upon hunting and fishing for subsistence, (7) in the case of disabled or blind recipients of benefits under title I, II, X, XIV, or XVI of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 301 et seq., 401 et seq., 1201 et seq., 1351 et seq., 1381 et seq.], and individuals described in paragraphs (2) through (7) of subsection (j), who are residents in a public or private nonprofit group living arrangement that serves no more than sixteen residents and is certified by the appropriate State agency or agencies under regulations issued under section 1616(e) of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 1382e(e)] or under standards determined by the Secretary to be comparable to standards implemented by appropriate State agencies under such section, meals prepared and served under such arrangement, (8) in the case of women and children temporarily residing in public or private nonprofit shelters for battered women and children, meals prepared and served, by such shelters, and (9) in the case of households that do not reside in permanent dwellings and households that have no fixed mailing addresses, meals prepared for and served by a public or private nonprofit establishment (approved by an appropriate State or local agency) that feeds such individuals and by private establishments that contract with the appropriate agency of the State to offer meals for such individuals at concessional prices subject to section 2018(h) of this title.
“Homeless individual” means—
an individual who lacks a fixed and regular nighttime residence; or
an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is—
a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter (including a welfare hotel or congregate shelter) designed to provide temporary living accommodations;
an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized;
a temporary accommodation for not more than 90 days in the residence of another individual; or
a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
an individual who lives alone or who, while living with others, customarily purchases food and prepares meals for home consumption separate and apart from the others; or
a group of individuals who live together and customarily purchase food and prepare meals together for home consumption.
Spouses who live together, parents and their children 21 years of age or younger who live together, and children (excluding foster children) under 18 years of age who live with and are under the parental control of a person other than their parent together with the person exercising parental control shall be treated as a group of individuals who customarily purchase and prepare meals together for home consumption even if they do not do so.
Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), an individual who lives with others, who is sixty years of age or older, and who is unable to purchase food and prepare meals because such individual suffers, as certified by a licensed physician, from a disability which would be considered a permanent disability under section 221(i) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 421(i)
In no event shall any individual or group of individuals constitute a household if they reside in an institution or boarding house, or else live with others and pay compensation to the others for meals.
For the purposes of this subsection, the following persons shall not be considered to be residents of institutions and shall be considered to be individual households:
Residents of federally subsidized housing for the elderly, disabled or blind recipients of benefits under title I, II, X, XIV, or XVI of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 301 et seq., 401 et seq., 1201 et seq., 1351 et seq., 1381 et seq.].
Individuals described in paragraphs (2) through (7) of subsection (j), who are residents in a public or private nonprofit group living arrangement that serves no more than sixteen residents and is certified by the appropriate State agency or agencies under regulations issued under section 1616(e) of the Social Security Act [42 U.S.C. 1382e(e)] or under standards determined by the Secretary to be comparable to standards implemented by appropriate State agencies under that section.
Temporary residents of public or private nonprofit shelters for battered women and children.
Residents of public or private nonprofit shelters for individuals who do not reside in permanent dwellings or have no fixed mailing addresses, who are otherwise eligible for benefits.
Narcotics addicts or alcoholics, together with their children, who live under the supervision of a private nonprofit institution, or a publicly operated community mental health center, for the purpose of regular participation in a drug or alcoholic treatment program.
“Reservation” means the geographically defined area or areas over which a tribal organization exercises governmental jurisdiction.
“Retail food store” means—
an establishment, house-to-house trade route, or online entity that sells food for home preparation and consumption and—
offers for sale, on a continuous basis, a variety of at least 7 foods in each of the 4 categories of staple foods specified in subsection (q)(1), including perishable foods in at least 3 of the categories; or
has over 50 percent of the total sales of the establishment or route in staple foods,
as determined by visual inspection, sales records, purchase records, counting of stockkeeping units, or other inventory or accounting recordkeeping methods that are customary or reasonable in the retail food industry;
an establishment, organization, program, or group living arrangement referred to in paragraphs (3), (4), (5), (7), (8), and (9) of subsection (k);
a store purveying the hunting and fishing equipment described in subsection (k)(6);
any private nonprofit cooperative food purchasing venture, including those in which the members pay for food purchased prior to the receipt of such food, or agricultural producers who market agricultural products directly to consumers; and
a governmental or private nonprofit food purchasing and delivery service that—
purchases food for, and delivers the food to, individuals who are—
unable to shop for food; and
not less than 60 years of age; or
physically or mentally handicapped or otherwise disabled;
clearly notifies the participating household at the time the household places a food order—
of any delivery fee associated with the food purchase and delivery provided to the household by the service; and
that a delivery fee cannot be paid with benefits provided under supplemental nutrition assistance program; and
sells food purchased for the household at the price paid by the service for the food and without any additional cost markup.
“Secretary” means the Secretary of Agriculture.
Except as provided in paragraph (2), “staple foods” means foods in the following categories:
Meat, poultry, or fish.
Bread or cereals.
Vegetables or fruits.
“Staple foods” do not include accessory food items, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, carbonated and uncarbonated drinks, candy, condiments, and spices.
“State” means the fifty States, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the reservations of an Indian tribe whose tribal organization meets the requirements of this chapter for participation as a State agency.
“State agency” means (1) the agency of State government, including the local offices thereof, which has the responsibility for the administration of the federally aided public assistance programs within such State, and in those States where such assistance programs are operated on a decentralized basis, the term shall include the counterpart local agencies administering such programs, and (2) the tribal organization of an Indian tribe determined by the Secretary to be capable of effectively administering a food distribution program under section 2013(b) of this title or a supplemental nutrition assistance program under section 2020(d) of this title.
“Supplemental nutrition assistance program” means the program operated pursuant to this chapter.
“Thrifty food plan” means the diet required to feed a family of four persons consisting of a man and a woman twenty through fifty, a child six through eight, and a child nine through eleven years of age, determined in accordance with the Secretary’s calculations. By 2022 and at 5-year intervals thereafter, the Secretary shall re-evaluate and publish the market baskets of the thrifty food plan based on current food prices, food composition data, consumption patterns, and dietary guidance. The cost of such diet shall be the basis for uniform allotments for all households regardless of their actual composition, except that the Secretary shall—
make household-size adjustments (based on the unrounded cost of such diet) taking into account economies of scale;
make cost adjustments in the thrifty food plan for Hawaii and the urban and rural parts of Alaska to reflect the cost of food in Hawaii and urban and rural Alaska;
make cost adjustments in the separate thrifty food plans for Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States to reflect the cost of food in those States, but not to exceed the cost of food in the fifty States and the District of Columbia; and
October 1, 1996, and each October 1 thereafter, adjust the cost of the diet to reflect the cost of the diet in the preceding June, and round the result to the nearest lower dollar increment for each household size, except that on October 1, 1996, the Secretary may not reduce the cost of the diet in effect on September 30, 1996, and except that on October 1, 2003, in the case of households residing in Alaska and Hawaii the Secretary may not reduce the cost of such diet in effect on September 30, 2002.
“Tribal organization” means the recognized governing body of an Indian tribe (including the tribally recognized intertribal organization of such tribes), as the term “Indian tribe” is defined in section 5304 of title 25, as well as any Indian tribe, band, or community holding a treaty with a State government.
(Pub. L. 88–525, § 3,
Aug. 31, 1964, 78 Stat. 703; Pub. L. 91–671, § 2, Jan. 11, 1971, 84 Stat. 2048; Pub. L. 92–603, title IV, § 411(a), (b), Oct. 30, 1972, 86 Stat. 1491; Pub. L. 93–86, § 3(a)–(c), (l), (o), (p), Aug. 10, 1973, 87 Stat. 246, 248, 249; Pub. L. 93–125, § 1(h), Oct. 18, 1973, 87 Stat. 450; Pub. L. 94–339, § 4, July 5, 1976, 90 Stat. 801; Pub. L. 95–113, title XIII, §§ 1301, 1302(a)(1), Sept. 29, 1977, 91 Stat. 958, 979; Pub. L. 96–58, §§ 3, 7, Aug. 14, 1979, 93 Stat. 390, 392; Pub. L. 96–181, § 15(b), Jan. 2, 1980, 93 Stat. 1316; Pub. L. 96–249, title I, §§ 101(a), 111, 135, May 26, 1980, 94 Stat. 357, 360, 369; Pub. L. 97–35, title I, §§ 101–103, 108(a), 116(a)(1), Aug. 13, 1981, 95 Stat. 358, 361, 364; Pub. L. 97–98, title XII, §§ 1302–1304, Dec. 22, 1981, 95 Stat. 1282; Pub. L. 97–253, title I, §§ 142, 143(a), 144, 145(a), (b), Sept. 8, 1982, 96 Stat. 772–774; Pub. L. 98–204, § 3, Dec. 2, 1983, 97 Stat. 1385; Pub. L. 99–198, title XV, §§ 1501(a), 1502–1504, Dec. 23, 1985, 99 Stat. 1566; Pub. L. 99–570, title XI, § 11002(a)–(c), Oct. 27, 1986, 100 Stat. 3207–167, 3207–168; Pub. L. 100–77, title VIII, §§ 801, 802(a), July 22, 1987, 101 Stat. 533, 534; Pub. L. 100–435, title I, § 120, title III, § 350, Sept. 19, 1988, 102 Stat. 1655, 1664; Pub. L. 101–624, title XVII, §§ 1712, 1713(a), 1747(b), Nov. 28, 1990, 104 Stat. 3783, 3796; Pub. L. 102–83, § 5(c)(2), Aug. 6, 1991, 105 Stat. 406; Pub. L. 102–237, title IX, §§ 901, 941(1), Dec. 13, 1991, 105 Stat. 1884, 1891; Pub. L. 102–351, § 1, Aug. 26, 1992, 106 Stat. 937; Pub. L. 103–66, title XIII, §§ 13931, 13932, Aug. 10, 1993, 107 Stat. 676; Pub. L. 103–225, title I, § 101(b)(1), title II, § 201, Mar. 25, 1994, 108 Stat. 107, 108; Pub. L. 103–354, title III, § 303(a), Oct. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 3239; Pub. L. 104–193, title VIII, §§ 801–805, Aug. 22, 1996, 110 Stat. 2308, 2309; Pub. L. 107–171, title IV, §§ 4112(b)(1), 4115(b)(1), May 13, 2002, 116 Stat. 312, 315; Pub. L. 108–199, div. A, title VII, § 771(a), Jan. 23, 2004, 118 Stat. 40; Pub. L. 110–234, title IV, §§ 4001(b), 4115(b)(1), May 22, 2008, 122 Stat. 1092, 1105; Pub. L. 110–246, § 4(a), title IV, §§ 4001(b), 4115(b)(1), June 18, 2008, 122 Stat. 1664, 1853, 1866; Pub. L. 113–79, title IV, §§ 4001, 4002(a), 4003(a), 4012, 4014(c), 4030(a), Feb. 7, 2014, 128 Stat. 782, 784, 793, 794, 813; Pub. L. 115–334, title IV, §§ 4001(a), 4002, 4003(c), 4022(1), Dec. 20, 2018, 132 Stat. 4624, 4627, 4653.)
cite as: 7 USC 2012