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CalFresh for SSI Recipients – Guide

Here’s some good news for SSI recipients in California – For the first time ever, older adults and adults with disabilities receiving SSI can apply for CalFresh. A new California law now allows SSI/SSP recipients to apply for CalFresh, joining every other state in the country. In this post, we are going to explain in detail how CalFresh for SSI Recipients will work and what you need to know if you are currently on SSI and are now eligible for food stamps.

Also, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about CalFresh for SSI Recipients, including what happens if you are on SSI and live in a household that already gets SNAP benefits.

Lastly, we will walk you through how to apply for CalFresh and what to expect after you apply. 

What is SSI?

Supplemental Security Income, or ‘SSI,’ is a federally funded program that provides a modest monthly benefit to low-income people who are 65 or older, blind, or disabled.

In California, the SSI payment is augmented by a State Supplementary Payment, or ‘SSP”.

Until June 2019, California remained to be the only state in the country that barred SSI recipients from CalFresh eligibility.

This exacerbated hunger and poverty among the state’s SSI recipients, leading many to rely on local food banks, pantries, and hot meal sites for their daily nutrition.

Are SSI/SSP Recipients Eligible for CalFresh?

Yes. Starting June 1, 2019, seniors and people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/State Supplementary Payment (SSP) will be allowed to receive CalFresh benefits.

As a result, SSI and SSP benefits are no longer reduced or eliminated.

How CalFresh for SSI Recipients Works

Most SSI recipients, individuals, and SSI couples will be eligible for CalFresh – starting in the summer of 2019.

Most SSI recipients will need to apply for CalFresh – either on the phone, online or in-person at their county social services office.

If approved, they will get an EBT card and the CalFresh benefit will be loaded onto it each month.

The California EBT card can be used to purchase eligible food items at approved grocery stores and farmers’ markets – including online for delivery.

Additionally, SSI recipients living in a household where other members are already receiving CalFresh are also eligible under the new criteria.

However, during their next reporting deadline, these households will be asked to provide information about any SSI recipients.

Once the requested information is provided, then their CalFresh amount should be automatically recalculated.

What does the expansion of CalFresh to SSI recipients mean for SSI?

First, older adults and people with disabilities receiving SSI may be eligible for CalFresh Food benefits beginning June 1st, 2019, and any time thereafter.

Also, there is NO CHANGE to the SSI/SSP monthly benefit.

SSI recipients may now get both SSI/SSP and CalFresh Food benefits.

Additionally, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) recipients will automatically receive a $10 per person grant increase beginning June 1st, 2019 to be the same as SSI/SSP.

Also, New state Supplemental Nutrition Benefits (SNB) on EBT were created to aid existing CalFresh households with an excluded SSI member that experience a drop in their CalFresh benefits when the SSI member is added at implementation.

Furthermore, New state Transitional Nutrition Benefits (TNB) on EBT were created to aid existing CalFresh households with an excluded SSI member that experience a total loss of their CalFresh benefits when the SSI member is added at implementation.

New CalFresh Applicants

If this SSI rule change makes you eligible for CalFresh, here’s how to apply:

The CalFresh application process includes:

Step 1

Complete a CalFresh application. Clear here to learn how.

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

Depending on your county of residence, you may have to apply through one of the following websites:

MyBenefits CalWIN
C4YourSelf
YourBenefitsNow

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.

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, your County will mail you a California EBT card.

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).

FAQs about CalFresh for SSI Recipients

Here are the most frequently asked questions about CalFresh for SSI Recipients:

How much will I get?

The amount of CalFresh Food benefits a household receives is based on household size, income, and monthly expenses, such as housing, utilities, and medical costs.

Benefits amounts range from $20 – $250 per month.

See the table below for how much you are likely to get in CalFresh based on your household size.

To calculate the exact amount you are likely to get based on your household income, see our post on California SNAP Calculator.

Household Size Maximum SNAP Allotment
1 $250
2 $459
3 $658
4 $835
5 $992
6 $1,190
7 $1,316
8 $1,504
For each additional member over 8 +$188

What if I live with other people already on CalFresh?

If you live and buy food with people who already get CalFresh, you can be added to the CalFresh household at the next reporting date.

If you want to be added sooner, contact your county.

Will the Household Lose Benefits?

It Depends.

For some households, adding the SSI recipient and their income may increase the CalFresh benefit.

However, for other households, adding the SSI recipient and their income will lead to a partial or total loss of their CalFresh benefit.

If adding the SSI recipient reduces a household’s CalFresh food benefits, they will be eligible to receive a state-funded nutrition benefit called the Supplemental Nutrition Benefit (SNB) on their existing EBT card.

Also, If adding the SSI recipient leads to a total loss of CalFresh food benefits, they will be eligible to receive a state-funded nutrition benefit called the Transitional Nutrition Benefit (TNB) on their existing EBT card.

CalFresh for SSI Recipients Summary

Here’s the bottom line about CalFresh for SSI Recipients:

Most SSI recipients in California are now eligible for CalFresh – starting in the summer of 2019.

However, most will need to apply for CalFresh – either on the phone, online or in person at their county social services office.

Questions?

We hope this post on CalFresh for SSI Recipients 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

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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