Apply for CA Food Stamps

Apply for California Food Stamps (CalFresh)

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:

  • What is CalFresh?
  • Who Can Apply for California Food Stamps?
  • CalFresh Eligibility Requirements
  • CalFresh Income Limits
  • Other CalFresh Eligibility Requirements
  • How to Apply for California Food Stamps
  • What Happens After I Apply?
  • How Much Food Stamps Will I Get?
  • CalFresh Guide by County
  • What is the CalFresh EBT Card?
  • CalFresh Application FAQs

What is CalFresh?

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.

Who uses CalFresh?

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:

Who Can Apply for California Food Stamps?

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:

  • Is anyone in the household 60 or older?
  • Do members of your household receive TANF or SSI?
  • Is anyone in the household under 19?
  • Is anyone considered disabled under Food Stamp rules?
  • Are you a pregnant woman living alone?
  • Are all household members US Citizens or legal non-Citizens?
  • Is the household homeless?

CalFresh Eligibility Requirements

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.

Here are the Eligibility Requirements for SNAP/Food Stamps in California:

Generally, you may be eligible for CalFresh benefits if you:

  • Receive CalWORKS or General Relief
  • Have low-income or no income
  • Have limited property
  • Are a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident
  • Are an immigrant that meet certain criteria
  • Receive Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP)

You may be eligible even if you:

  • Own a car
  • Own a home
  • Have a job
  • Do not have a permanent home or are unhoused (people without homes can often get benefits within three days)
  • Are an individual or have a family
  • Are a veteran
  • Go to school – Are a student (there are special rules for students)
  • Are an immigrant – (there are special guidelines for immigrants)

CalFresh Income Limits

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 Limit

“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.

Exceptions:

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.

Net monthly 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.

CalFresh Gross and Net Income Limits

Household Size Gross monthly income
(200 percent of FPL)
Net monthly income
(100 percent of FPL)
1 $2,128 $1,064
2 $2,874 $1,437
3 $3,620 $1,810
4 $4,368 $2,184
5 $5,114 $2,557
6 $5,860 $2,930
7 $6,608 $3,304
8 $7,354 $3,677
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.

CalFresh Income Limit Deductions and Allowances

Deductions and Allowances Amount
Earned Income 20%
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

Other CalFresh Eligibility Requirements

Here are the other eligibility requirements you must meet in order to qualify for food stamps in California.

Identity

You must have documentation to prove your identity. The following are acceptable:

  • Driver’s license
  • Work or school ID
  • Birth certificate

Residency

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.

Citizenship

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.

Social Security Numbers

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.

Resources Requirement

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.

Special Eligibility Requirements

If you fall under one of the following groups, there are special eligibility requirements you need to be aware of.

  • Elderly/disabled individuals
  • Students
  • Immigrants
  • Adults age 18-49 without dependents

Click here for details or Contact your local food stamps office for details:

How to Apply for California Food Stamps

There are 3 ways you can apply for food stamps in California.

Option 1 – Apply online

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:

MyBenefits CalWIN
C4YourSelf
YourBenefitsNow

Click here to get started with your online application for CalFresh.

Option 2 – Apply at CDSS Office Near You

You can apply in person at the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) office near you. Click here to locate a CDSS office.

Option 3 – Download California Food Stamps Application

You can download an application, complete it, and mail it to your county CDSS office or submit it in person.

CalFresh Customer Service

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.

What Happens After I Apply?

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.

Expedited Application for CalFresh

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:

  • Your household makes less than $150 in monthly income and has less than $100 on hand right now.
  • Your household’s combined monthly income and money on hand are less than your household’s combined monthly rent and utilities.
  • You are a migrant or seasonal farmworker and have less than $100 on hand right now.

How Much Food Stamps Will I Get?

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
1 $234
2 $430
3 $616
4 $782
5 $929
6 $1,114
7 $1,232
8 $1,408
Each additional person +$176

CalFresh Guide by County

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.

What is the CalFresh EBT Card?

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.

CalFresh Application FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the California Food Stamps application process:

If I enroll in CalFresh, I will be taking benefits from someone else who needs it more?

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.

Is CalFresh only for mothers or families with children?

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.

Will I have to submit to Fingerprinting to apply for CalFresh?

No. As of January 1, 2012, in California, you no longer need to provide fingerprints when
applying only for CalFresh.

Do I have to be employed or have some income to receive CalFresh?d

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:

  • Earn money from a job
  • Get unemployment benefits
  • Get child support
  • Own a house or a car
  • Get disability benefits
  • have money in savings

Do I have to go to the CalFresh office for an interview?

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.

Can I get CalFresh If I am receiving Social Security Retirement or Disability benefits?

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.

Can I get CalFresh just for myself if I live with my family or with others?

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.

How Long Can You Stay on CalFresh?

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.

Three-Month Time Limit for ABAWDs

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.

How to Apply for California Food Stamps Summary

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.

Questions?

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 LoginCalFresh Income Limit, Restaurants that Accept EBT in LA County, and How to Purchase Groceries Online with California EBT.

Kwame Kuadey

Kwame Kuadey writes about personal finance and the social safety net. His career started in banking but he caught the entrepreneurial bug and has spent the last decade building successful businesses, including an Inc. 500 Company. Kwame believes everyone has the power to improve their quality of life by seeking knowledge and taking action. In 2012, Kwame founded Empower Media to help low-income households improve their financial situation. His expertise is in topics relevant to low-income households, including government benefits and assistance, banking products, access to credit, plus tools & resources to help reduce income volatility and build wealth. Kwame has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Washington Post, ABC, and NPR.

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