What questions will there be on the food stamp exam?
July 12, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

What are they going to ask us during our (PA) food stamp interview?

We have our telephone food stamp interview on Friday. We've already sent in all our paperwork (twice--they apparently didn't get it the first time), so they have our ID, bills, proof of income, rent contract, etc.

What are they going to ask us? I want to be prepared and have any additional paperwork in front of me so I can reference it if necessary. And I want to be prepared for any "trick" questions. When I had to do various unemployment interviews it was like I was on the stand at a murder trial and I wanted to throw up.

We're in Pennsylvania.
posted by misanthropicsarah to Law & Government (5 answers total)
I've only dealt with it in NYC, but FS is a fed program administered by the states, as I recall, and so therefore I don't think it can be too hinky.

In NYC, the culture has been to treat FS/PA/MA applicants like shit, in terms of tone of address and overall bureaucratic stupidity. I don't think there can be any trick questions, and hopefully they will treat you with respect. If the respect is not there, perhaps mentally roll your eyes and give them the finger and then coming home to watch some violent TV, whatever helps you vent.
posted by angrycat at 4:30 PM on July 12, 2010

speaking from personal experience as both someone who worked as a public benefits legal intern and as somebody currently on food stamps in PA:

no trick questions. right now there is no asset limit in PA, so your savings can be any amount and you'll still get food stamps. it's based just on your income (well, mostly).

you need a bank statement for the past month, pay stubs for the past month, proof of rent payments for the past month (like a lease or a check), proof of utility payments for the past month, ID (driver's license & SS card or a passport).... and i believe that's it.

almost certainly they will straight up not ask you anything. they'll just look at your documents and make a decision. even the likelihood of them looking you in the eye is slim.

if you memail me, i can send you a spreadsheet with the formula they use to calculate benefits.

also, check this out for all the details: SNAP handbook from the DPW.

hope this helps.
posted by timory at 4:59 PM on July 12, 2010 [6 favorites]

As part of my (new-ish) job, I regularly assist speakers of limited English with things like food stamp/SNAP and unemployment interviews. I'm not in PA, but as the program is a federal assistance program I can't imagine that it would vary that much.

Honestly, food stamp interviews are much less intense than unemployment interviews. I've never participated in any with trick questions--usually the caseworker goes over the paperwork you've already submitted and then asks you to confirm details like rent, other expenditures, employment, and other sources of income. If you're applying as a multi-person household your caseworker will ask you some questions to make sure you qualify as a household rather than individually. Occasionally, the caseworker will also discuss your eligibility for other assistance programs.

You should have the paperwork you already submitted in front of you, but I doubt they'll ask you anything that will send you scrambling through your file cabinet. If, for some reason, the person you're speaking to asks for a paper that you haven't already provided don't worry! In my experience, most of the time you have a window of time in which to submit all of the documents proving your eligibility.

As angrycat says, sometimes caseworkers are horrible, sometimes they're delightful. If you get a bad one, do your best to keep your cool. I find that (1) being as disgustingly sweet as possible and (2) remembering that I can make a complaint to a supervisor after the fact really helps me get through interactions with unpleasant caseworkers. (Seriously, don't be afraid to make a complaint--I'm not sure if it actually makes a difference, but it sure makes me feel better.)

If your caseworker is really really really bad, ask to be switched to a different worker.

Good luck!
posted by cimton at 5:03 PM on July 12, 2010

Sarah, I'll put you in contact with a friend of mine in the welfare department before Friday and she will answer all your questions in advance. I'll Memail you when I hear back from her about what the best way for you to get in touch is.
posted by The Straightener at 5:45 PM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: thanks, The Straightener!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:12 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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