Can seniors get food stamps in California? How does getting CalFresh affect Social Security/Disability income? What is the maximum income seniors can get and still get CalFresh? Can Seniors use CalFresh at restaurants to purchase hot food? If you are asking any of these questions or have other questions about CalFresh for seniors, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we are going to explain in detail all you need to know about food stamps for seniors in California, including eligibility, income limits, how to apply, and what you can expect once you submit an application.

CalFresh for Seniors

SNAP is federally funded but managed and distributed by state departments. In California, the program is called CalFresh.

The CalFresh program is there to help ensure everyone can purchase the most basic of needs:

CalFresh used to be called Food Stamps. It is a nutrition program, funded by the USDA, with taxes you helped pay.

CalFresh is not the same as welfare.

Benefits come on a plastic card, like a debit card. It is private and easy to use at grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Who is considered a Senior by CalFresh?

For CalFresh eligibility purposes, you are considered a senior if you are 60 years or older.

Are Seniors Eligible for CalFresh?

Yes. Low-income seniors, families, and individuals, with or without children, may be eligible for CalFresh.

You can get CalFresh even if you get money from Social Security, retirement, a
job, unemployment, General Assistance or SSI benefits.

Why Should Seniors Apply for CalFresh?

Yes. Here are the many reasons why all eligible seniors should apply for CalFresh:

  • On average, senior households get more than $100 per month to buy healthy
    food.
  • Using CalFresh benefits brings money to your community.
  • You can still get CalFresh and benefit from other food programs such as Brown
    Bag, Meals on Wheels or meals from senior centers.
  • You may own your home and car, have savings or retirement accounts, and still
    be eligible for CalFresh benefits.
  • If you are an immigrant, CalFresh will not hurt your immigration status.
    Receiving CalFresh does not take it away from someone else.
  • You do not have to pay any money back unless you are overpaid. Your savings
    accounts, home, and other assets are safe. They will not be taken or reduced in
    exchange for receiving CalFresh.

Also, even if you applied for CalFresh before and were denied, you should try again.

New laws have been passed to make it easier for Seniors to get CalFresh.

What You Need to Apply for CalFresh

Here’s what you need to provide to apply for CalFresh

  • Information about all the people in your household
  • Your income from all sources
  • Your monthly housing expenses
  • Some resources you own that have significant value
  • Documentation of some of your bills

CalFresh Income Limits for Seniors

In order to be approved for CalFresh, you must also meet the income limit for your household size.

Unless you are living with a spouse or your kids, your household size is 1.

Households that include an elderly or disabled person are NOT subject to the gross income test (200% FPL).

They are only required to meet the net income test (100%FPL).

Below is the gross and net income limit for CalFresh eligibility for 2021/2022 based on household size.

CalFresh Income Eligibility Standards for Fiscal Year 2022
Effective October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022
Household Size Gross Monthly Income (200% of FPL) Gross Monthly Income (130% of FPL) Net Monthly Income (100% of FPL)
1 $2,148 $1,396 $1,074
2 $2,904 $1,888 $1,452
3 $3,660 $2,379 $1,830
4 $4,418 $2,871 $2,209
5 $5,174 $3,363 $2,587
6 $5,930 $3,855 $2,965
7 $6,688 $4,347 $3,344
8 $7,444 $4,839 $3,722
​9 $8,202 ​$5,331 $4,101
​10 $8,960 ​$5,823 $4,480
Each additional member +$758 +$492 +$379

Documents Needed to Apply

If you meet the eligibility requirement for CalFresh as a senior, here’s what you’ll need to complete an application:

  • Proof of California residence (lease, copy of bills with your name and address)
  • ID card
  • Birth certificates for children
  • LPR card (Lawful Permanent Resident)
  • US Passport
  • Social Security Card
  • Proof of income from last 30 days
  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Child care Bills
  • Court Ordered Child Support
  • Medical bills if elderly or disabled

How to Apply for CalFresh as a Senior

Follow the steps below to apply for CalFresh as a Senior:

Step 1 – Apply for CalFresh

There are three options available to you when applying for CalFresh:

Option 1 – Apply Online

You can apply online through the California benefitscal.com website.

Depending on your county of residence, you will be redirected to one of the following websites to apply:

MyBenefits CalWIN
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 the California Food Stamps Application

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

Step 2

Complete an interview. The interview is normally conducted as a phone interview.

However, you may request to have the interview in one of the county welfare offices or through a home visit.

Click here to locate a county CalFresh office.

Step 3

Provide proof of income and expenses, if needed.

Your caseworker will give you a list of documents you need to bring during your CalFresh interview.

If you cannot get all the information together before the interview, inform your caseworker and you will be given additional time to produce any missing documents.

Step 4

In most cases, the county has 30 days after you turn in your application to determine if you will get CalFresh.

The county may grant a household CalFresh benefits in three days if the household qualifies for “expedited service.”

A household qualifies for expedited service if it

  • Has less than $150 in monthly income and less than $100 in liquid resources (cash, savings, or checking); or
  • Has housing costs that are more than its monthly income and liquid resources; or
  • Is a migrant or seasonal farmworker who is destitute.

Step 5

If you are approved for CalFresh, you will receive a Calfornia EBT Card.

Your EBT Benefits card will be mailed and PIN will be mailed separately.

Be sure to complete SAR 7 Eligibility Status Report Form to maintain your CalFresh benefits. Instructions for SAR 7 are found here.

If you are denied CalFresh, you can appeal the decision.

CalFresh can be used to buy food like

  • Fruits and vegetables;
  • Beans, fish, poultry, meat;
  • Rice, bread, tortillas, cereal;
  • Milk and cheese; and
  • Seeds and plants that produce food.

CalFresh cannot be used to buy

  • Alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes;
  • Non-food items (pet food, toilet paper, diapers, soap, etc.);
  • Vitamins and medicine;
  • Foods that will be eaten in the store; and
  • Hot foods (unless your county participates in the Restaurant Meals Program).

Special CalFresh Rules for Seniors

Seniors participating in the CalFresh program can take advantage of the following rules that make it easier for them to get and stay on CalFresh

1. Simpler application and Recertification process

If all household members are elderly (age 60 or older) and/or disabled and have no earned income, the ESAP rules apply.

ESAP stands for The Elderly Simplified Application Project.

It is a program by the USDA that seeks to increase CalFresh participation among the elderly low-income population by streamlining the application and certification process.

The ESAP program makes it easier to get and stay on CalFresh. This includes:
– Waived recertification interview (interview only at initial application)
– Recertification at 36 months (instead of 12), with SAR-7 at 12 and 24 months
– Making use of data matching to reduce client-provided verifications

2. Maximize CalFresh with Standard Medical Deduction

Households that include an elderly or disabled person may deduct medical expenses from their income to qualify for CalFresh.

If the household incurs $35.01 or more per month in medical expenses, they can get the
Standard Medical Deduction (SMD) of $120 per month.

However, if actual medical expenses are over $155 per month, the household can choose to deduct their total medical expenses instead of using the standard medical expense deduction.

Some examples include:

  • Doctor’s visit co-pays or transportation to/from appointments (including personal mileage, public transportation or paratransit tickets/passes)
  • Medications (both prescription and non-prescription)
  • Dentures, hearing aids, prosthetics, wheelchairs, glasses, etc.
  • Costs for obtaining/maintaining service animals

You will be required to submit receipts and bills from out-of-pocket medical expenses if
they exceed $35 per month, or all expenses if they exceed $155 per month.

Receipts can be provided at any point during or after application and certification to start claiming the deduction and receiving a boost in benefits.

3. Use CalFresh at Approved Restaurants

The Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) allows CalFresh recipients who are 60 years of age or older, disabled, or homeless to use their CalFresh benefits to purchase lower-cost prepared meals at approved participating restaurants in certain counties.

If you fit one of the groups described above, you can use your CalFresh California EBT card at select restaurants and fast-food chains throughout the state.

Currently, the restaurant meals program is active in the following counties:

For Frequently asked questions about CalFresh for the elderly, see our post on CalFresh for Seniors FAQ.

CalFresh for Seniors Summary

We hope this post on CalFresh for Seniors was helpful.

If you have further questions about California SNAP or EBT Card, please let us know in the comments section below.

Also, be sure to check out our other articles about California SNAP and EBT, including:

$3,000 Child Tax Credit from 2021 Stimulus
California P-EBT Extension
How much will I get in CalFresh
Does Costco Take EBT in California?
Extra Food Stamps for California
CalFresh for SSI/SSP Beneficiaries

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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