If you live in the state of California, have low income, and need help paying for food, you may qualify for California Food Stamps (CalFresh). The CalFresh program helps people with low-income with money to buy healthy food. In this post, we are going to cover details on how to apply for California Food Stamps, including eligibility, income limits, how much you will get in benefits if approved, and what you should know about the California EBT Card (including where you can use it online to buy groceries).
This post will cover:
CalFresh is the name for the California Food Stamps program. It is also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
The SNAP program is a federal nutrition program that helps people with low income buy healthy food.
SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food at grocery stores, convenience stores, and some farmers’ markets and co-op food programs.
The CalFresh program is a nutrition program. It is not a welfare cash assistance program (which is called TANF).
Also, you do not have to be receiving TANF to get CalFresh.
Furthermore, CalFresh is a federal entitlement program. This means anyone who is eligible will receive benefits. You will not be taking away benefits from someone else if you apply.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees SNAP at the federal level.
In California, the program is managed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).
If approved for CalFresh, you can get up to $204 a month per household member on an EBT card.
People of all ages use CalFresh, including families, people living alone, people living with roommates, and people who are homeless.
People who are working or have other regular income, such as Social Security or a pension, can often get SNAP.
CalFresh eligibility is determined by a calculation that takes into consideration your family size, citizenship status, household income, and certain expenses.
To apply for California Food Stamps, follow the instructions below:
Anyone on a low income can apply for CalFresh food stamps as long as they meet program rules, including income and asset limits.
If you are a low-income household and answer yes to one or more of the following questions, you may be eligible for food stamps:
The first thing you need to do is to determine if you are eligible to apply for food stamps in California.
This is important because you don’t want to waste your time and effort going through the application process only to find out that you do not qualify.
Many applicants for CalFresh have found this out the hard way where they go through the entire process almost to the end and then find out they missed an important requirement.
They end up being denied.
Generally, you may be eligible for CalFresh benefits if you:
You may be eligible even if you:
The most important eligibility requirement for CalFresh is the income limit.
The CalFresh program has two income tests: gross and net monthly income limits.
However, it is important to note that CalFresh rules exclude some money from being counted as income to the household.
“Gross monthly income” is the household’s income before any allowable deductions.
You must meet the gross monthly income limit for your household as shown in the table below in order to qualify for CalFresh.
For many households, the gross income eligibility limit is 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL).
Your gross income includes gross pay from work before your employer takes out taxes and other deductions.
You can locate your gross income on your pay stub.
See the table below for the gross income limit by household size.
For CalFresh eligibility purposes, if all members of a household are on cash welfare assistance, the household is eligible for CalFresh regardless of its gross or net income.
Furthermore, if any member of the household is elderly or disabled, there is no gross income test.
However, a household with an elderly or disabled person must still meet the net income limit.
The net income of a household is the income after all allowable deductions have been subtracted.
In order to be approved for food stamps in California, you must meet the CalFresh net income eligibility standard.
The net income limit is 100% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Therefore, if your household’s net monthly income is more than the net income limit, you do not qualify for CalFresh.
See the table below for the net income limit by household size.
|Household Size||Gross monthly income |
(200 percent of FPL)
|Net monthly income |
(100 percent of FPL)
|Each additional member||+$748||+$374|
To arrive at your net income, you have to take your gross income and subtract allowable deductions.
Here are the deductions that are allowed.
|Deductions and Allowances||Amount|
|Standard Deductions by Household Size||$167 for households of 1 to 3 persons|
|$181 for households of 4 persons|
|$212 for households of 5 persons|
|$243 for households of 6 or more persons|
|Dependent Care||No Dependent Care Maximum Limit|
|Maximum Shelter Deduction||$586|
|Standard Utility Allowance||$438|
|Limited Utility Allowance||$139|
|Telephone Utility Allowance||$18|
|Homeless Household Shelter Deduction||$157|
|Excess Medical Deduction||Under $35 a month-not eligible for deduction|
|$35.01 to $155 a month-eligible for $120|
$155.01 a month and over-eligible to deduct the actual medical expense in excess of $35
Here are the other eligibility requirements you must meet in order to qualify for food stamps in California.
You must have documentation to prove your identity. The following are acceptable:
To be eligible for CalFresh, you must be a resident of the state of California.
Furthermore, you must apply in the county you live in.
As a result, you will have to prove that you are a resident of the county where you submit your application.
U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents are eligible for CalFresh.
In addition, if the people applying for CalFresh are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, they may apply on behalf of other members in the household who are.
For example, undocumented parents may apply for their U.S. citizen children.
Anyone applying for CalFresh must either provide a Social Security number or proof they have applied for a Social Security Number.
However, household members that are not eligible for CalFresh do not have to provide or apply for a Social Security Number.
Effective February 1st, 2011, assets for most CalFresh applicants and recipients will not be considered or verified to determine eligibility for CalFresh.
There is an exception for certain elderly or disabled households.
However, any income generated from resources (e.g. bank account interest, stock dividends, rental income, etc.) is counted as part of the household’s total gross income.
If you fall under one of the following groups, there are special eligibility requirements you need to be aware of.
Click here for details or Contact your local food stamps office for details:
There are 3 ways you can apply for food stamps in California.
You can apply online through the California benefitscal.org website (as shown in the image below).
Depending on your county of residence, you will be redirected to one of the following websites to apply:
Click here to get started with your online application for CalFresh.
You can apply in person at the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) office near you. Click here to locate a CDSS office.
You can download an application, complete it, and mail it to your county CDSS office or submit it in person.
If you need additional help with your California food stamps online account, assistance applying, or have a question about your benefits, please contact the California CDSS Customer Call Center.
You can call the CDSS at 1-877-847-3663.
Once you submit a complete application, your caseworker will schedule an interview with you.
The purpose of the interview is to review your application information and ask any questions they may have about the information you submitted.
Generally, a decision will be made on your food stamps application within 30 days of the day you submitted a COMPLETE application.
You may be eligible for immediate food assistance in just 3 business days if you meet the requirement for expedited processing of your application.
To qualify, you must provide identification and meet all other CalFresh requirements in addition to one of the following:
Once you determine you qualify for CalFresh, you probably want to know how much in benefits your household will get on a monthly basis.
See the chart below for details.
You will find that the maximum benefit you can get is based on the number of people in your household.
Note: The total amount of SNAP benefits your household gets each month is called an allotment.
CalFresh Maximum Monthly Allotment Based on Household Size.
|People in Household||Maximum Monthly Allotment|
|Each additional person||+$176|
For your convenience, we have created a detailed guide about CalFresh for select counties.
Click on the county name below to see the complete guide.
The California EBT Card, also called the Golden State Advantage card is used to administer your monthly benefits.
If you are approved for food stamps, your monthly food stamps allocation will be given to you each month on a California EBT Card, which works like a debit card.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about the California Food Stamps application process:
No. CalFresh is an entitlement program, which means that all who are eligible and
apply will receive benefits.
You are not “taking someone else’s place” if you apply.
The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, which sets
aside funds for the program.
No. CalFresh is for everyone meeting the eligibility guidelines.
Fathers, single adults, people with disabilities, homeless individuals, and people age 60 or older may qualify for CalFresh.
No. As of January 1, 2012, in California, you no longer need to provide fingerprints when
applying only for CalFresh.
No. Employment is not an eligibility requirement for CalFresh.
In addition, there is no minimum income requirement to qualify for food stamps in California.
You may still qualify to receive CalFresh if you:
As mentioned above, you may apply for CalFresh online through the California benefitscal.org website.
Interviews for food stamps applications are usually done over the phone.
However, If you do not have a phone, are unable to keep a phone
appointment, or would prefer an appointment in the office, you can request one.
Yes. Both Social Security (SSA) benefit and Disability (SSDI and SDI) benefit recipients
may be eligible for CalFresh.
As mentioned in the income limit requirements above, households that have people age 60 or older, or people with a disability, don’t have to pass the gross income test.
Furthermore, as of June 1st, 2019, SSI/SSP recipients may be eligible to receive CalFresh in addition to receiving a monthly Social Security Disability benefit.
People who live together and purchase food and prepare meals together are grouped as a “household”.
Husbands and wives and their children under age 22 must be listed as one household.
CalFresh households must “recertify” their eligibility in order to keep continuously receiving CalFresh benefits.
To do this, they must complete a new application before the 15th of the month when their certification period will end.
In California, most households have a 12-month certification period.
Some households with elderly or disabled members have a 24 month certification period.
Households that only have elderly and/or disabled members and no earned income are certified for 36 months.
Food Stamps rules require all recipients to meet work requirements unless they are exempt because of age or disability or another specific reason.
Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD), between the ages of 18 and 49, who are not disabled must meet special work requirements, in addition to the general work requirements, to maintain their eligibility for food stamps.
Otherwise, ABAWDs can only get food stamps for 3 months in a 36-month period if they do not meet the work requirements.
Here’s the bottom line:
You can get CalFresh even if you have a job. You can also get benefits if you have no income or are homeless.
Your gross income must be less than 200% of the federal poverty level to be approved.
In addition, your net income must be less than 100% of the federal poverty level to be eligible.
There are special eligibility requirements for elderly/disabled individuals, students, immigrants, and adults age 18-49 without dependents.
If approved for food stamps, your monthly benefits will be deposited each month on a California EBT Card, which works like a debit card.
You can get up to $204 a month in CalFresh benefits per household member on an EBT card if approved.
We hope this post on How to apply for California Food Stamps was helpful.
If you have further questions about CalFresh or California EBT Card, please let us know in the comments section below.
Be sure to check out our other articles about CalFresh and CalFresh EBT, including CalFresh Eligibility, CalFresh Login, CalFresh Income Limit, Restaurants that Accept EBT in LA County, and How to Purchase Groceries Online with California EBT.