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How to Apply for the Illinois Link Card and Get Assistance with Food

Posted In:  low income assistance

IL link card The Illinois LINK card provides lower income families, single mothers, and the unemployed with assitance for food purchases.  The LINK card is an EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer card. It's basically the electronic replacement for the paper-based food stamps program. The LINK card works just like a debit card and can be used at most grocery stores to buy food.  Each household is given a set amount that is deposited onto their LINK card each month to help purchase food for their family. 


How to Apply for the Link Card in person

  1. Contact your local Human Services or Public Aid department. If you are a low income household, unemployed, or a single mom with children, you could be eligible for the Illinois Link card which could assist you with your food purchases each month.  You can locate your local office online.
  2. Bring proof of any income, social security cards, proof of address ( like a utility bill ), and  information for each person who lives in the household. They will need names, birth dates, and social security cards for each household member.
  3. Speak with a case worker and set an appointment. Talk with them about your current financial situation during the appointment and let them know how the link card could be beneficial for you. Bring in any bills that you may be behind on to help show your household budget issues.
  4. You'll then fill out an application with a case worker.  If you like, you can download the application and fill it out ahead of time.  Go ahead and ask any questions you may have about the card. After your application has been approved, the caseworker will present a Link card to you.
  5. Find the the toll free number on the link card then use the special pin number you were assigned to check your balance.  You can shop at grocery stores that have the  "LINK" is accepted here placard.  Your Link card can be run through the checkout card swiper just like a regular credit card, so there's no embarrasment...nobody will even notice.

How to Apply for the Illinois Link Card Online

  1. The first thing you'll want to do is to determine if you are eligible for benefits.  Factors like your current income and number of people living in your household will determine not only if you qualify, but also will determine the amount of your monthly benefit.  The Illinois SNAP program has an online eligibility calculator that can help.
  2. Now, you'll want to collect the relevant information needed to apply online.  Once you start the process, you have 15 days to complete the application before submitting it.  See the "Frequently Asked Questions" section below for the list of items and information needed.
  3. Once you have all of your backing information ready, you can proceed to the online application.


Frequently Asked Questions

What if I need food assitance right now?

If you are applying for the Link Card (Food Stamps) you may be entitled to receive those benefits right away, provided at least ONE of the following is true

  • your current income and current assets together are less than your current monthly rent or mortgage plus utility bills
  • you have assets of $100 or lower and your current monthly income is less than $150
  • you have assets of $100 or lower and at least one of the people in your household applying is a qualifying migrant 

How long does it take to get my benefits?

  • The average wait is roughly 30 days to start receiving your SNAP benefits unless you need food right away and have little or no money.
  • The average wait for Cash and Medical benefits is a little longer at about 45 days.

How much money will I receive each month?

The benefit level varies based on the number of people in your household as well as your current income and expenses. 

Do I have to come to the office to be interviewed?

  • For Foodstamps/SNAP: Even if you apply online for SNAP benefits an interview will be scheduled, and you will usually have to come in.  This happens typically within 14 days of submitting your application. The state will make exceptions, however, if you cannot get to their office because of issues with work hours, health problems, lack of transportation or child care.  In those cases, they can do the interview on the phone.
  • For TANF (Cash Assistance), the interview is mandatory, no exceptions.
  • For Medical Assistance only, no office interview is required.

What information is required for the application and interview?

  • Information about your household income and expenses, for everyone in the household. 
    • Recent bank account statements
    • Any proof of child support or spousal support (alimony) currently being paid.
    • Recent utility bils
    • Proof of child-care or adult-care costs
    • Proof of rental or mortgage costs
  • Date of birth for every person in the household
  • Proof of identity (drivers license, passport or state-issued photo I.D)
  • If you are applying for TANF or medical benefits, you will also need citizenship proof for each member of the household (Birth Certificates)
  • In all cases, you will need Social Security Numbers for all members of the household, or Alien registration numbers for persons that are not U.S. citizens.
  • Proof of residence (Utility bills and/or Rental/Mortgage paperwork)

Are there Other Resources Available?

Aside from the link card, other types of assistance are also available, like food pantries or the Angel Food Ministries program. Contact your local churches or community action agencies for assistance in locating local food pantries.Angel Food Ministries are also available nationwide. You can buy boxes of food for your family for around $30.  Angel food ministries has no upper income limit. Angel Food Ministries is available online, so you can see if there a local office in your area:

Also, have a look at the following topics on our site that might be helpful:


More info on Food Stamps:
How to Apply For Food Stamps
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