Foodstamps and Social Services


As a VISTA, you should be eligible for food stamps. ''Food stamps and many other social services (especially child care) cannot be taken away from you if you obtain them before becoming a VISTA.'' All prior federal assistance is unaffected upon becoming an AmeriCorps*VISTA.

This is what the AmeriCorps*VISTA handbook says regarding foodstamps:

The Department of Agriculture administers the Food Stamp Program. Department of Agriculture regulations state that AmeriCorps VISTA members who were receiving foods stamps before joining AmeriCorps VISTA will not have their food stamp allotment reduced or eliminated as a result of their allowances. Members not receiving food stamps before joining AmeriCorps VISTA will have their allowances counted as income for purposes of determining their level of food stamp eligibility. Members may be held responsible for food stamp overpayments. Carefully check your allotments to ensure that you are not given food stamps for which you are not eligible. If you apply for food stamps after you become an AmeriCorps VISTA member, you will have a decreased food stamp allotment. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Regulations pertaining to AmeriCorps VISTA income exclusion are contained in the 7 CFR § 273.9.

==== DASCorps Assistance ====

The DASCorps can provide certification that you are serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA, your living allowance payments and supporting material as to your eligibility for food stamps or other social services. Contact your Vista Leader!

==== Common Issues and Solutions====

There is an enormous amount of discretion given to each individual caseworker, and it seems that each interprets the guidelines very differently. In most cases, ''VISTAs are eligible'' and you should contact the Transmission Project should you run into difficulties.

  • Should your AmeriCorps living allowance be counted as income?
    AmeriCorps member's Living Allowance is exempt, VISTA member's aren't (unless they had Food Stamps prior to service). This seems rather confusing since VISTA is (now) a subset of AmeriCorps. For those of you who are treated as exempt, it seems like they are recognizing you as AmeriCorps members, while for those of you who non-exempt, they are recognizing you as VISTA members. More info here.

  • My case worker told me, "I should have fought my own poverty rather that quitting my job to fight other's"
    In extreme cases the locality may view your signing the AmeriCorps VISTA as voluntary poverty, which could be a hindrance in furthering your case. (Not really a solution...) (see VISTA Testimonials)

  • What if I have savings, investments, or mutual funds?
    Food Stamp programs, along with many other social assistance programs, have an asset limit. This usually is savings, but may also include retirement plans and investments as well. The average amount is $2,000 but check your local requirements.

==== Links, Tips, & Tricks ====

  • While made specifically for those in Massachusetts, has valuable, general information for anyone looking to receive food assistance.

  • Look to see if there are any community food centers/food banks/etc. that will help you apply for food stamps. I made a free appointment at this place called Food for People—they basically walked me through the whole food stamps application process so I didn't actually have to
    deal with the Social Services people until I had already applied and they were evaluating my application.

  • If you can, try to apply for and receive food stamps prior to your service with AmeriCorps*VISTA. You are more likely to receive a larger amount in food stamps if you are already signed up for the program, then signing up during your year of service.

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