The state of Illinois may be able to ease financial stress and relieve the “poor college student” title by providing a Link card for those who are eligible.
Illinois Link cards are directly related to cash assistance and food stamps. They work much like debit cards. Link cards are preloaded each month providing a source of money or credits for people or families that cannot afford to pay for groceries, rent, utilities or other necessary bills each month.
Link cards are accepted at most grocery stores and ATMs in the United States. The amount of money on the card is preloaded each month relative to the needs of families or individuals.
Students may also apply for cash assistance. Students have the same benefits as anyone else. In order for a student to meet the requirements for a Link card they must be at least a part time student and work a minimum of 20 hours a week.
“As a college student, being able to use a Link card means one less
expense that I need to stress about,” Erin, senior psychology major who wishes to keep her last name annoynous for the purpose of this article explained. “If you qualify, the money that would normally go toward a grocery bill can then be used for more important things like tuition and rent.”
She said she is able to buy more expensive food items she otherwise would not be able to like vegetables, fruit and Greek yogurt, which allows for healthier eating habits.
Each card has a personal identification number to authorize purchases in order to create security for that card. At grocery stores, users can decide whether to use cash benefits or their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Signs are posted outside of all grocery stores that accept Link cards as a form of payment. Users can also receive cash back at ATMs or through grocery check-out lanes that allow it.
There is a cap on the amount of money that each person can spend each month. Spending limits depend on needs per person or family.
“It’s all income-based and there are different formulas to determine the amount of assistance, like income compared to expensive,” Kim Freymann, a licensed clinical social worker for the McLean County Center for Human Services said.
Cards are granted after an application process. Low income or unemployed families or individuals, as well as senior citizens and single mothers are all eligible for application.
Erin said it took her about 10 minutes to complete the Link card application. It takes about one month for the application to be processed and then another month to register the card.
Applicants also must be US citizens and must provide documentation of housing and assets and expenses. If the assets are worth a certain amount of money then cash assistance will be denied until those assets are liquidated.
“There’s about a million households that receive supplemental assistance and that’s about 1.8 million people total,” Tom Green, director of communications for the Illinois Department of Human Services said.
To apply for the card, contact the McLean County Center for Human Services. Bring proof of income, social security cards and proof of address. A social worker will then assist with the application and questions. Once the application is accepted, a monthly amount will be determined, a PIN will be assigned and the card will become active.
For more information or to apply for a Link Card, visit http://www.dhs.state.il.us.