Benefit Programs Services
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – formerly the Food Stamp Program
SNAP benefits will help you buy nutritious food for your household. You may also buy seeds or plants to grow your own food.
You may not use SNAP benefits to:
- Buy alcoholic beverages, tobacco, soap, paper products, or other nonfood items;
- Buy hot food ready to be eaten on the store premises.
SNAP benefits are issued electronically to eligible households. You will get a card that is similar to a credit or debit card to use at the authorized retailers to buy food. You must select a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and use that PIN when you swipe the card at the store. SNAP benefits will be added to your account at the beginning of every month you are approved for benefits. Please contact the Department of Social Services at 861-4720 on ways to apply for SNAP benefits.
To Apply for SNAP: Applications are accepted at our office during regular work hours Monday-Friday or you can request an application be mailed to you. You may also file an application electronically 24/7 at https://commonhelp.virginia.gov. Your completed application can be returned by mail; by FAX at 861-0137, or in person. The date your signed application is received in the agency is the date from which your benefits will be calculated if you are found eligible. You do not have to be interviewed before filing an application; however, you must be interviewed before you can be certified to receive benefits. Applicants are interviewed by appointments only. You are encouraged to apply for SNAP even if you think you may not be eligible.
All applications are screened for expedited services. Your household may qualify for Expedited Services and receive SNAP benefits within 7 days if you are eligible and your gross monthly income is less than $150 and liquid resources are $100 or less; or your monthly shelter bills are higher than your household’s gross monthly income plus your liquid resources; or your household is a migrant or seasonal farm worker household with little or no income and resources. Additional information about SNAP benefits is available online from the Virginia Department of Social Services at www.dss.virginia.gov.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) TANF provides temporary financial assistance to eligible families with children. To be eligible, a family must be financially needy and must meet certain other requirements. An eligible child must be under age 18, or if 18, expected to graduate from high school before age 19; going to school regularly if s/he is between the ages of 5 and 18; living with a parent or other relative; and a citizen of the U.S. or an eligible immigrant.
An applicant must cooperate in naming the parents of all eligible children and must help establish paternity for each child. The Division of Child Support Enforcement (DCSE) will send all support collected for this child directly to the family. A child will not be eligible if born to or adopted by a TANF recipient more than 10 months after an applicant begins receiving TANF.
The amount of the TANF payment is based on the size of the family. A family may still be eligible to receive TANF while receiving money from other sources.
If you receive TANF, you may be required to participate in the Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW) program. Families in the VIEW program may earn income and receive a TANF check. However, the total income cannot be more than the federal poverty level for the family size.
A family with someone in VIEW may receive TANF for no longer than 24 months followed by a period of 24 months ineligibility. A family may receive TANF no more than a total of 60 months in a lifetime.
Individuals may be prosecuted for fraud, perjury or charged with an intentional program violation (IPV) if they purposefully make false statements, withhold information, name the wrong person as a parent, or fail to report a change on time in order to receive benefits or VIEW services.
Additional information regarding the TANF program, application, forms and manual is available online at www.dss.virginia.gov.
Medical Assistance Programs—Medicaid, FAMIS Plus, and FAMIS (Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan)
Medicaid and the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan (FAMIS) are Medical Assistance programs that make direct payments to health care service providers for eligible individuals and families who are unable to pay for needed medical services. Medicaid for children is called FAMIS Plus.
To be eligible for Medicaid, a person must have income and resources (assets) within specified limits and must be in one of the groups covered by Medicaid. Medicaid covered groups include children under age 19 years, pregnant women, parents with dependent children under age 18 years living in the home, adults age 65 years and older, blind individuals, and individuals who are disabled according to the standards adopted by the Social Security Administration.
FAMIS, and its program for pregnant women, FAMIS MOMS, covers uninsured children under age 19 years and pregnant women, with income that is too high for FAMIS Plus/Medicaid but is under the income limit for FAMIS/FAMIS MOMS.
Medicaid/FAMIS Plus and FAMIS have different income limits and nonfinancial requirements. When someone applies for Medical Assistance, the eligibility worker will determine if the person is eligible for either program. Medicaid and FAMIS pay for a variety of medical services, including prescription drugs, doctor visits, nursing facility care and hospital care.
Information about Medicaid/FAMIS Plus is available online from the Virginia Department of Social Services at www.dss.virginia.gov and from the Department of Medical Assistance Services at www.dmas.virginia.gov.
For more information about FAMIS, please contact the local department of social services at 861-4720, or call 1-866-87FAMIS. Information about FAMIS is also available online at www.famis.org.
Some people who live in an adult care residence or an adult family care home can receive money from the Auxiliary Grant Program. The money received, plus other income is used by the person to pay for the care provided by the home. Individuals who receive money from this program are also eligible for Medicaid. To be eligible, a person must:
- Be 65 or older, blind, or disabled
- Have countable resources of less than $2,000 for one person--$3,000 for a couple
- Have countable income that is less than the approved rate for the home plus an allowance for personal items
- File an application in the locality where the person lived prior to entering the adult care residence or adult family-care home
- Have been assessed and determined to need care in an adult care residence or an adult family placement
Additional information about the Auxiliary Grant Program can be found at www.dss.virginia.gov.
Energy Assistance Program
Energy Assistance consists of three components:
- Fuel Assistance, which helps low-income eligible households by supplementing home energy costs. Applications are accepted the second Tuesday in October through the second Friday in November.
- Crisis Assistance, which assists low-income households with energy related emergencies—repair or replacement of heating equipment, a one-time only security deposit, Applications are accepted November 1st through March 15th; and
- Cooling Assistance, which assists households in acquiring or repairing cooling equipment and/or payment of electric bills to operate cooling equipment. To be eligible a household must be income eligible and contain at least one vulnerable individual who is age 60 or over, disabled, or under the age of 6. Applications are accepted June 15th through August 15th.
How to Apply for Assistance
You may file an application electronically 24/7 at https://commonhelp.virginia.gov. You may also apply by completing an application and returning/leaving it in person or mailing it to the Petersburg Department of Social Services. Applications are available at our office any time during regular office hours, or you can request one to be mailed to you. Applications can also be downloaded from the Virginia Department of Social Services at: www.dss.virginia.gov. The Department of Social Services will provide benefits and services without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, sex, age, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, marital or family status.
Action must generally be taken on applications within 10 work days for Medical Assistance for a pregnant woman; within 45 days of application for Medical Assistance (may take up to 90 days if a disability determination is needed); within 30 days of application for TANF; within 30 days of application for SNAP benefits—7 days if you qualify for expedited services; as soon as possible but no later than the last day designated for processing for Fuel Assistance; within three working days of all information being received for Crisis Assistance; and by the close of the application period for Cooling Assistance.
All information that you provide is confidential. Information will only be give to persons directly connected with administering or enforcing provisions of the programs for which you apply. Information may also be disclosed to law enforcement officials who are investigating program violations or in some instances who are investigating persons fleeing prosecution or punishment for a felony.
To be eligible for most programs, applicants must live in Virginia; be a U.S. citizen or meet certain requirements if you are an immigrant; apply at the agency that serves the city or county where you live; meet specific requirements of each program for which you are applying; and apply for benefits that you may be entitled to receive, such as Social Security, Worker’s or Unemployment Compensation.
Before we can determine whether you are eligible, some of the information you give must be verified. Eligibility will be based on your income, resources, the number of people for whom you are applying, and for some programs, certain household expenses. You will be notified in writing as soon as a decision about your application has been made.
Each program has its own verification requirements. You must provide any information requested to establish your eligibility. Your workers will tell you what you need to provide and the deadline to provide it. Please ask for assistance if you need help.
If you disagree with any decision or action concerning your application, you have the right to request a conference with the agency or file an appeal.