CalFresh Application FAQs

We know readers have various questions regarding how the CalFresh application process works, including income limits, eligibility, whether non-citizens can get benefits, how much you can get in benefits if approved, how long you can stay receive food stamps, and more. We decided to set up this CalFresh Application FAQs page to address the most common questions we get.

CalFresh is the name for the California Food Stamps program. It is also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

More questions will be added as and when we receive reader feedback.

"CalFresh Application FAQs"

CalFresh Application FAQs

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

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

What is the maximum income I can make and get CalFresh?

To be eligible for CalFresh, you must make less than the maximum gross income listed below, based on your household size.

In addition, you must make less than the maximum net income listed below by household size.

Net income is calculated after allowable deductions are taken from the gross income.

For more on how to calculate your gross and net income, see our post on CalFresh Calculator.

Number of People in Household Maximum Gross Income Allowed – 200% Federal Poverty Level Maximum Net Income Allowed – 100% Federal Poverty Level
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 +377

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.

How Much in CalFresh will I Get?

How much in CalFresh benefits you get partly depends on the number of people in your household.

The table below shows you the maximum amount of benefits you may receive if you are approved, based on the number of people in your household.

Household Size CalFresh Maximum Monthly Allotment
1 $204
2 $374
3 $535
4 $680
5 $807
6 $696
7 $1,071
8 $1,224
Each Additional Member +153

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?

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 if I am a College Student?

College students (age 18 to 49) enrolled half-time or more must meet one of the following criteria on the date of the CalFresh interview:

  • Working an average of 20 hours per week or 80 hours per month.
  • Approved for state or federally funded work-study for the current term or enrolled in WIOA, EOPS, or other programs that increase employability.
  • Have parental responsibility for a child under age 6.
  • Enrolled full-time and a single parent with responsibility for a dependent child under age 12.

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.

What Can I Buy with CalFresh?

The types of food and certain non-food eligible for purchase with CalFresh include:

Any food for human consumption except hot food.

However, if you are 60 years of age or older, disabled, or homeless, you may be approved to purchase hot meals at approved restaurant meals programs

The following counties participate in the program, which is called the Restaurant Meals Program:

  • Alameda
  • Fresno
  • Los Angeles
  • Mariposa
  • Monterey
  • Orange
  • Riverside
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco
  • Sacramento
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Santa Clara
  • Santa Cruz
  • Siskiyou
  • Tehama

Other non-food items you can purchase with CalFresh are:

  • Seeds and plants to grow food for yourself or your family
  • Military commissary surcharges.
  • Container deposits under state law.

What you cannot buy with CalFresh

  • Tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, etc.
  • Pet food.
  • Alcohol.
  • Non-food items, such as soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.
  • Vitamins and medicines
    Note: If the vitamin or medicine is prescribed, these may be out-of-pocket medical deductions for elderly/disabled households.
  • Any hot food, including hot food intended for immediate consumption.
    Note: Approved meal programs and restaurant meals programs are exempted.
  • Medicines and dietary supplements
    Note: Here’s an easy test with dietary supplements:
    If the items has a nutrition facts label it is an eligible food product.
    However, if it has a “supplement facts” label it is an ineligible supplement.
  • Prepared food intended for on-premises consumption.
    However, prepared food intended for off-premises consumption is eligible as long it is not hot at the point of sale.
  • Firearms, ammunition, and explosives.
  • Live animals, except for shellfish, fish as long as they are removed from water prior to removal from the sales premises.
    In addition, you can purchase other animals live at the point-of-sale if they are slaughtered prior to removal from the premises.
  • Gift baskets if the value of non-food items is over half of the purchase price.
  • Fees, including retailer fees for the delivery of food and grocery bag fees.

See our complete list of CalFresh eligible foods here.

Which immigrants can get CalFresh?

If you are an immigrant, here’s what you should know.

A household can get CalFresh if at least one person has:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • A green card
  • Refugee status, asylum, or parolee status
  • A U-Visa or T-Visa or is applying for one
  • Applied for relief under VAWA (Violence Against Women Act)
  • Proof of being a Cuban or Haitian entrant

An individual does not qualify for CalFresh if they are in the U.S.:

  • On a student, work, or tourist visa
  • Under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
  • Under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) unless they meet the other qualifying factors
  • As an undocumented person

Is CalFresh Public Charge?

CalFresh is not welfare and it is not cash aid. The program is funded by USDA.

“Public Charge” is a term used to describe an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.

This dependence is determined if the person receives public cash assistance or use of long-term care at government expense.

CalFresh is not cash aid, and you will not be considered a “Public Charge” if you receive CalFresh.

See our detailed post on CalFresh and the Public Charge Rule here.

CalFresh Application FAQs 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 CalFresh Application FAQs 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:
Extra Food Stamps in California for 2021
Restaurants that Take CalFresh in California
How to Apply for California P-EBT
California P-EBT Extension for 2020/2021
CalFresh Account Login Help
How much will I get in CalFresh in 2021?