What is the CalFresh Program?
The CalFresh Program, formerly known as Food Stamps and federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), can add to your food budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table. The program issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores. The amount of the benefit is based on the size of your household, your income, and your housing expenses. CalFresh benefits come on a plastic card, called the Golden State Advantage Card, which you can use just like a bank card at most food stores.
How do I apply for CalFresh?
You can apply for CalFresh by completing an online application. You can also apply by going to the local county office during business hours.
Do I have to be finger printed to get CalFresh?
What can I buy with my CalFresh Benefits?
You can buy food as well as plants and seeds to grow food. You will not be charged sales tax on items you buy with CalFresh. You cannot buy pet food, vitamins, medicines, alcohol, tobacco, paper products, fast food or food that will be eaten in the store. If the county you live in participates in the Restaurant Meals Program and you are elderly (60 or older), disabled and/or homeless, you can purchase food at approved participating restaurants. Contact your county representative for details.
Is there a limit on the number of people I can apply for?
No, there is no limit to the number of people you can apply for; however, the people you can apply for must live in your home and buy and eat meals with you in the home. If you have children less than 22 years of age living with you in the home, you must apply for them and their family, if any, even if they buy and eat meals separately from your family.
How long does it take to get CalFresh?
The county has up to 30 days to approve or deny your application. If you need food before 30 days you may be eligible for Expedited Services.
What does ‘Report My Changes or Renew Benefits' mean?
Report My Changes
Currently, most households have to report their income and living situation every three months, as well as certain other changes immediately. Later this year, most households will switch to reporting their income and living situation every six months. The County will explain your reporting responsibilities.
Most households must complete a phone or face-to-face interview once a year to determine continued eligibility. The purpose of the interview is to report changes of address, family size, school attendance, employment, income, property, and expenses.
Is there an income limit?
Yes, the income limit is based on the number of people you are applying. The questions in the application will help the county figure out if you are eligible.
If I am on SSI Can I also get CalFresh?
No. People who receive SSI are not eligible for CalWORKs or CalFresh (Food Stamps) but the other members of your family who are not getting SSI may be eligible for CalWORKs or CalFresh benefits.
Is my property, money in the bank or car used to figure out if I can get CalFresh?
Depending on your household situation, resources may be counted when determining eligibility for CalFresh.
Sample resources include:
- Bank accounts and cash
- Stocks and bonds
- Real Estate
Am I potentially eligible to receive CalFresh if you own a car or house?
Yes, you can own a car and/or house and still receive CalFresh if otherwise eligible.
Can I have a checking and/or savings account and still get CalFresh?
Yes, you can have a checking and/or savings account and still receive CalFresh.
CalFresh (Food Stamp) Student Eligibility Requirements
Definition of a Student
Any person 18 to 49 years old who:
- is physically and mentally fit for work, and
- is enrolled at least half-time, as defined by the institution, in an in an institution of higher education,
- in an institution of higher education.
What are "Institutions of Higher Education"?
"Institutions of Higher Education" are now divided into two categories:
- Business, trade, technical or vocational schools at the post-high school level that normally require a high school diploma or equivalency certificate for enrollment.
- Junior, community, two-year or four-year colleges or universities, or graduate schools, regardless of whether a high school diploma or equivalency certificate is required: To be considered a student, the person must be enrolled at least half-time in these institutions' regular curriculum. NOTE: If a college normally requires a high school diploma or equivalency certificate, but does not require either of these for a particular program or course, enrollment in that particular program or course does not constitute enrollment in an institution of higher education. EXAMPLE: Joe is going to junior college half-time but is enrolled in mostly non-credit courses; only one class is for credit. For CalFresh purposes, he is not considered to be enrolled in an institution of higher education.
On-the-Job Training programs
Persons in on-the-job training programs have to meet the student eligibility requirements when they are attending classes at least half time and not involved in the training portion.
Student Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible, a student must meet at least one of the following requirements on the date of the interview.
- Be employed for a minimum of 20 hours per week and be paid for such employment, or,
- If self-employed, be self-employed for a minimum of 20 hours per week, and receive gross weekly earnings at least equal to the federal minimum wage multiplied by 20 hours; or
- Be approved for state or federally financed work study for the current school term as defined by the institution, and anticipating working during the term; or
- The exemption begins the month the school term starts or the month work study is approved, whichever is later. It continues until the end of the month the school term ends, or it becomes known that the student refused a work assignment; or
- The exemption shall not continue between terms when there is a break of a full-month or longer unless the student is participating in work study during the break, or
- Have parental control over a dependent household member under the age of six. A parent does not fulfill the student eligibility requirements if another household member provides the majority of child care for the dependent; or
- Have parental control over a dependent household member, who has turned six but is under twelve, and the Food Stamp worker has determined that there is no adequate child care available for the student to attend class, work 20 hours per week, or participate in a state or federally financed work study program during the regular school year; or
- Be assigned or placed in an institution of higher education through the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), the Food Stamp Employment and Training Program (FSET), the Job Opportunity and Basic Skills Program (JOBS) under Title IV if the Social Security Act, any program under Section 236 of the Trade Act of 1974, or a state or local government employment and training program for low-income individuals. For education to be approved as an FSET component the education should be of short duration, i.e. completion is expected in a year or less from the time of the Food Stamp application. Also, the education must have a direct relation to obtaining employment in the workforce; or
- Be enrolled full time in an institution of higher education and is a single parent with responsibility for the care of a dependent child under age 12. This provision applies when only one of the child's natural, adoptive or step- parents, regardless of marital status, is in the same Food Stamp household as the child.
When Student Enrollment Status Begins and Ends
Enrollment begins the first day of the institution's school term. The student's enrollment is considered current through vacations and recesses, unless the student graduates, is suspended, expelled, or drops out.
I have a criminal record. Am I still eligible for CalFresh?
If you have been convicted of any misdemeanor offense or convicted for any felony offense that is not drug-related, including serious or violent offenses, your criminal record does not affect your eligibility for CalFresh.
I have a drug-related felony conviction on my record. Am I still eligible for CalFresh?
Effective April 2015, drug related felonies will no longer cause a person to be ineligible to CalFresh.
I am on probation or parole. Am I still able to get CalFresh?
Yes, being on probation and/or parole does not impact your eligibility for CalFresh.
I am not a United States citizen. Can I get CalFresh?
Yes, you may be eligible if you are a "qualified" immigrant. This includes Permanent Legal Residents (holders of green cards), refugees, asylees (an individual who has been granted asylum), people granted withholding of deportation or removal, Cuban/Haitian entrants, individuals paroled into the U.S. for a least one year by immigration authorities, conditional entrants (temporary green card), and certain victims of domestic violence. Victims of human trafficking (T visa) and applicants for U visa/interim relief are also eligible for CalFresh.
Will my immigration status be reported to immigration authorities?
No. Your immigration status information will only be used to check whether you are eligible for CalFresh. Immigration authorities cannot use this information to deport you unless there is a criminal violation involved.
Can my kids get CalFresh even if I don't have U.S. immigration documents?
Yes, your children may be eligible even if you aren't. You may apply for CalFresh for your kids (under age 22) who were born in the United States, are permanent residents or qualify for special immigration status. You will have to show proof of your income and resources to determine the amount of their CalFresh.
Will receiving CalFresh on behalf of my children make it harder to get a green card or become a citizen?
No, unlike receiving other cash assistance, receiving CalFresh does not make an immigrant a "public charge." The immigrant will not be denied entry to the country, or denied lawful permanent residence or a "green card" because he or she receives CalFresh benefits. An immigrant's use of CalFresh is not relevant in deciding whether he/she can become a U.S. citizen. The exception is where the CalFresh benefits were received or used fraudulently, (for example, if the immigrant did not tell the truth about where he/she lived or his/her income, etc.).
Can immigrant children who don't have U.S. immigration documentation get CalFresh?
No, only children born in the United States are permanent residents or qualify for special immigration status can get CalFresh.
Is information about sponsorship required as a component of applying for CalFresh?
Yes, but only for certain adults. You can apply on behalf of children under 18 years of age without supplying ANY information about sponsors. Immigrants with sponsors can still get CalFresh if their sponsor's income is very low, or if they would go hungry or homeless without assistance (taking into account any money the family actually receives) or if they are victims of domestic violence, or if they have credit for ten years of work history in the U.S.
Emergency Food - Expedited Services for CalFresh
What is Expedited Services?
If you qualify for Expedited Services, you have the right to get emergency CalFresh benefits within three (3) business days from the time the county gets your application. Saturday and Sunday count as one day when determining the three days.
Who is eligible for Expedited Services?
Households may qualify for Expedited Services based if the household:
- has less than $150.00 in monthly gross income and you do not have resources over $100.00; or,
- migrant or seasonal farm workers who are destitute; or,
- your household's total monthly income and resources are less than the household's monthly rent or mortgage, and utilities; or
- is homeless.
Is my property used to figure out if I can get Expedited Services?
If you need emergency CalFresh benefits (Expedited Service), resources/property are considered and must be reported.
How do I know if I am eligible for Expedited Services?
The county will look at your application and see if you meet the rules for Expedited Service. If it looks like you might be eligible, the county will contact you.
How can I get more information about Expedited Services?
You can contact your County office for more information or click http://www.calfresh.ca.gov/PG847.htm to find more information
CalFresh Required Documents
What CalFresh Verification documents will I need?
The County needs proof of information you give in the application. The County will need to have one document for each type of your verification category before your application can be certified.
If you are eligible to Expedited Services, at the time of your application you will need to show your identification, only. The other information can be given to the County later. If you aren't eligible for expedited services you need to provide necessary documents with the initial application.
Applicants need to show only ONE document for each category of verification. (For example, to show the applicants identity you can show EITHER your: birth certificate, or driver's license, or paycheck or voter registration card.)
Identity of applicant
Voter registration card
Social Security Numbers
Only the members are required to be verified in CalFresh. Proof of application for SSN will suffice if no number exits.
All documents and forms must be verified through the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE). Verification of immigration status shall only be required for those noncitizen household members who are applying for CalFresh. The I-688 is not acceptable verification document; the I-94 is acceptable depending as to what type of information is provided on the form and if USCIS approves of such information.
Rent or mortgage receipt
Dated check stubs for the last 30 days
Statement from your employer
Copy of last year's tax return
A current benefit check
Copies of child support checks
Statement from college financial aid office
Note: Resources will only apply to Expedited Service eligibility determination.
Bank statements showing savings and checking accounts
Life insurance policies
Statements of stocks, bonds or certificates of deposit (CDs)
Housing and Other bills
Mortgage or rent receipts
Lease or statement from your landlord
Property tax statement
Only needed for household members who are aged 60 years or older or permanently disabled
Child care receipt which includes:
Name(s) of person(s) care was provided for
Signature of provider and date