California Food Stamps Eligibility Guide

Updated on 9/19/20

The California food stamps program, popularly known as CalFresh provides monthly benefits to low-income households to help pay for the cost of food. In this post, we will walk you through the California food stamps eligibility, including income limits, how much you will receive if you are approved for benefits, how to determine if you are eligible and what happens after you apply.

Our goal is that by the time you finish reading this article, you will have all the information you need to submit a successful application for CalFresh benefits.

"California Food Stamps Eligibility Guide"

This Post on California Food Stamps will cover:

  • How to Check for California Food Stamps Eligibility
  • California Food Stamps Income limit
  • How Much Will I Recieve in California Food Stamps?
  • Should I apply for California Food Stamps?
  • How to Apply for California Food Stamps
  • California Food Stamps Work Requirement
  • Do I qualify for Emergency Food Stamps in California?
  • How do I renew my CalFresh food stamps benefits?
  • MyBenefitsCalWIN.org Login
  • CalFresh Phone Number
  • Can you apply for CalFresh as a Student?
  • Calfornia Food Stamps FAQs

CalFresh Food Stamps Eligibility Guidelines

In order to be approved for SNAP benefits in California, you have to meet the following eligibility requirements:

Proof of Identity

The identity of the person applying must be verified for SNAP.

Some examples of proof of identity include government-issued identification card or driver’s license, work or school ID, voter registration card, or birth certificate.

Work Rules

With certain exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 years of age must register for work, accept an offer of suitable work, and take part in an employment and training program when referred to one by the local department of social services.

In addition, unless exempt, SNAP benefits are limited to 3 months within a 36 month period for Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWD’s) between the ages of 18 and 50 who are not working or participating in an approved Employment & Training Program (E&T) an average of 20 hours per week.

Residency

The applicant must live in the state they are applying for benefits in.

Citizenship

U.S. citizens and some non-citizens are eligible for SNAP benefits.

Some legal immigrants are ineligible for SNAP benefits.

Even if some members of the household are not eligible, household members who are eligible may still be able to get SNAP benefits.

In addition, dependents of an ineligible immigrant are often eligible.

Social Security Numbers

You will have to provide a Social Security number for every household member, including children, except for undocumented immigrants applying on behalf of others.

If any household member, other than an undocumented immigrant does not have a Social Security number, he or she will have to apply for one.

Child Support Requirement

You may be required to cooperate with the state in establishing paternity and providing child support.

Resource Test

Some households may be subject to a resource test.

The asset limit is $2,250 for most households and $3,500 for households containing a member who is disabled or 60 years or older.

Many types of assets are not counted such as the home you occupy and its lot, household goods, and money in retirement savings accounts or pension plans.

Countable assets include cash on hand, money in checking or savings accounts, certificates of deposit, U.S. savings bonds, stocks, and bonds.

Income Test

Income is one of the most important criteria for California Food Stamps Eligibility.

Your total income, before taxes or any other subtractions, is called gross income.

However, the program allows certain subtractions from your gross income, called deductions.

These can be for things you pay for like housing costs, child support payments,
medical expenses over $35 a month for elderly or disabled people, or childcare costs.

The amount left over after these deductions is called net income.

There are two income tests: gross income and net income limit. If your household has a person who is 60 or older or who is disabled, you only need to meet the net income limit.

If everyone in your household receives Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you do not need to meet any
of the income limits.

"Calfresh Food Stamps Income Chart and Calculator"

California Food Stamps Income Chart

Use the chart below to find out whether your household makes less than the gross monthly income limit.

You may be eligible for food stamps if your total income falls below the appropriate gross income limits for your household size.

Your caseworker will determine which income limit applies to your household.

The chart below shows you the Gross Income and Net Income levels required for qualification, based on the number of people in each household.

Household Size Gross monthly income
(130 percent of poverty)
Net monthly income
(100 percent of poverty; test for SNAP households with elderly and disabled members)
1 $1,383 $1,064
2 $1,868 $1,437
3 $2,353 $1,810
4 $2,839 $2,184
5 $3,324 $2,557
6 $3,809 $2,930
7 $4,295 $3,304
8 $4,780 $3,677
Each additional member (+486) (+374)

Deductions:

After adding all of your household’s countable income, the case manager will subtract certain deductions. The following deductions are allowed for all households:

  1. standard deduction;
  2. 20 percent of earned income;
  3. actual costs of dependent care costs for children and disabled adults if this care is needed so that a household member can work, look for a job, or get training or education leading to a job;
  4. legally owed and paid child-support payments;
  5. shelter expenses and utility expenses;
  6. medical expenses over $35 a month for household members who are age 60 or older or receiving certain disability payments.

How Much in Food Stamps will I Get?

If you are approved for food stamps in California, how much in benefits you get partly depends on the number of people in your household.

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

Household Size Maximum Monthly Benefit Estimated Average Monthly Benefit
1 $204 138
2 $374 260
3 $535 401
4 $680 477
5 $807 560
6 $969 673
7 $1,071 656
8 $1,224 927
Each additional member (+153)

Should I apply for California Food Stamps?

To figure out if you qualify for food stamps in California, you need two pieces of information – your household size and income:

Household size

Your household size is how many people you live and buy/make food with.

You may live with people who don’t count as household members, like tenants who are renting a room, or adult children (22+) who buy/make their own food.

Children (under 22) always count as household members, even if they buy/make their own food.

Elderly (60+) and disabled people count as household members if you buy/make food for them, or you buy/make food together. If they live with you but buy/make food separately, they do not count as household members.

Income

How much money your household makes. This includes both earned income (the money you make from jobs) and unearned income (cash assistance, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and child support, etc.).

In order to determine if you qualify for CalFresh food stamps, answer the two questions below.

Basic Eligibility Questions:

Question 1

Does anyone in your household have a social security number?

Question 2

Is your monthly income before taxes less than the amount allowed?

Use the income chart above to see if your household’s monthly income, before taxes and other deductions, is under the limit allowed for your household size.

If you answered YES to both questions, you may qualify for CalFresh.

If you answered NO, you may still qualify for CalFresh.

There are special rules for households that have people who are over 60, disabled and immigrants.

Note that the only way to be 100% sure you qualify is to submit an application.

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 getcalfresh.org account (as shown in the image below).

If you have an account, you can login or create your getcalfresh.org account. Click here to be taken to the website.

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.

"How to Apply for Florida Food Stamps"

How long to get Approved for California Food Stamps?

Once you submit a complete application, your caseworker will schedule an interview with you 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.

California Food Stamps Work Requirement

Most able-bodied adults without dependent children, between the ages of 18 and 50 must register for work or be working at least 20 hours per week or an average of 80 hours per month to receive CalFresh benefits.

NOTE: Due to a federal waiver for the State of California, CalFresh recipients (except those receiving General Relief) are not required to meet the Work Rules stated above.

Do I qualify for Emergency Food Stamps in California?

Every food stamps application is screened for qualification for emergency food stamps.

If you meet the qualification, your application will be expedited and you may receive benefits within seven days.

The fastest way to receive emergency food stamps is to apply in person at your local CDSS office. For the CDSS county office closest to you, click here.

To be eligible for expedited benefits, you must meet one of these three criteria:

    • Your income and money in the bank add up to less than the monthly housing expenses.
    • You are a migrant worker, and money in the bank is less than $10.
    • Your monthly income is less than $150, and money in the bank is less than $100.

If you believe you are eligible for expedited benefits but don’t get them, contact your caseworker and request that your file be reviewed by a supervisor.

How do I renew my CalFresh food stamps benefits?

Here are the steps to review your Calfornia food stamps (CalFresh)

Step 1

A few weeks before your food stamps benefits are set to expire, you will receive a letter in the mail from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) with instructions on when and how to renew your benefits.

Step 2

Follow the instructions and renew your benefits before the due date indicated in the letter. You may be able to renew your benefits online.

However, if online renewal is not provided as an option, complete the paperwork provided and turn it in at your local CDSS office. For the CDSS county office closest to you, click here.

If you have questions about how to renew your California food stamps, call your caseworker, local CDSS office, or the Calfresh Information Line: 1-877-847-3663.

California Food Stamps Login – mybenefitscalwin.org login

MyBenefits CalWIN is the fast, easy way for California residents to get the help they need.

Your MyBenefitsCalWIN account gives you access to your California public assistance benefits, including CalFresh.

To login to your MyBenefitsCalWIN account, or create a new account, click here.

"MyBenefitsCalWIN.org Login"

CalFresh Phone Number

If you are trying to reach CalFresh, you can call the Access Customer Service Center at 1-866-262-9881.

Access assists callers in a number of ways, including:

  • Report changes and updates to case information
  • Find out the status of an application or case
  • Request forms, packets, applications
  • Apply for benefits

How will I receive my CalFresh Benefits?

Your CalFresh benefits will be deposited each month on an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card.

An EBT card is a plastic card that acts like a debit card that is used to distribute public assistance benefits.

The California EBT Card, also called the Golden State Advantage card (as shown below) is used for the delivery of benefits such as CalFresh, California Food Assistance Program benefits, and cash aid benefits (TANF).

"CalFresh California EBT Card"

To check the balance on your California EBT Card, see our Golden State Card Balance post.

What time will my food stamps post to my Calfornia EBT card?

When your CalFresh benefits post to your California EBT Card depends on the last digit of your case number.

Your California food stamps benefits will be deposited onto your EBT card according to the schedule below:

Food stamps benefits are available by 6 am on the payment day.

If your Case Number ends in Benefits are deposited on the
1 1st of the month
2 2nd of the month
3 3rd of the month
4 4th of the month
5 5th of the month
6 6th of the month
7 7th of the month
8 8th of the month
9 9th of the month
0 10th of the month

Once your benefits are deposited into your account, you can begin using them with your California EBT card to purchase eligible food items. For a full list of approved food items, see the Food Stamps Eligible Food List here.

California Food Stamps FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about California food stamps

I live with other people. Do I have to put their names on my application?

Yes. If you buy and prepare food with the people you live with, then you have to all apply together.

However, if you do not buy and prepare food with the people you live with, you should apply separately, but you would still need to put their names on your application.

In addition, some people must always apply together, including spouses and children under 22 living with a parent or step-parent.

Do I Qualify for CalFresh Food Stamps?

Are you one of the people described below? You still qualify to apply for food stamps.

What if I own a car?

You can own a car and still qualify for CalFresh.

What if I have a job?

You can have a job and still qualify for CalFresh.

What if I own my home?

You can own the home you live in and still qualify for CalFresh.

What if I am homeless?

You can qualify for CalFresh even if you do not have a home, address, or place to cook. People without homes can often get benefits within three days.

See emergency food stamps below.

What if I’m unemployed?

Yes, as long as you aren’t leaving a job or reducing your hours specifically so that you’ll qualify.

What if I have a drug felony conviction?

Yes. If you’re eligible for food stamps, California won’t disqualify you because of a drug felony.

Can I get CalFresh food benefits if I’m not a citizen?

Non-citizens who have qualified alien immigration status are eligible for food stamps.

Qualified aliens include refugees, victims of trafficking, Cuban and Haitian immigrants, Iraqi and Afghan immigrants with special status, and more.

Will applying for or receiving CalFresh impact my family’s immigration status?

No, applying for CalFresh will not impact you or your family’s immigration status.

Can I qualify if I do not have a family?

Individuals can qualify for CalFresh. You do not have to have children to qualify.

Can I get CalFresh if I am in the military?

If you meet the eligibility requirements you can qualify for CalFresh if you are in the military.

Can people who receive SSI/SSP receive CalFresh?

As of June 1, 2019 people who receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income) are eligible for CalFresh in California.

Are the medical expenses of seniors and disabled people considered in determining eligibility?

Yes, there are special rules and deductions for seniors (60 years or older) and disabled people. Visit the section on Seniors and Disabled Households for more information.

I am a Student. Can I get California Food Stamps?

Students can only qualify for CalFresh if they meet certain criteria. There are many definitions and exemptions that can be confusing.

Therefore, we encourage you to read the criteria below carefully in order to find out if you are considered a student and whether you may be eligible.

Even if you are not eligible for CalFresh, remember that other people in your household may still qualify.

Who is a student?

You are considered a student if you are:

1. Age 18-49 and is physically and mentally “fit” for employment.

However, If a person has a disability, they are not considered a student.

2. Enrolled at least half-time in regular curriculum at an “institution of higher education” in which the regular curriculum meets the standard requirements for graduation or certification in a particular field of study.

Note that Half-time status is determined by the institution in which you are enrolled.

Additionally, an institution of higher education is a business, trade, a technical or vocational school that usually requires a high school diploma or GED; or a junior, community, two-year or four-year college or university, or graduate school.

However, it does not matter whether a high school diploma or GED is required.

If you are considered a student, you can get CalFresh if you:

  • Work at least 20 hours per week, on average, OR
  • Are approved for state or federal work-study money and anticipate working during the term, OR
  • You are a full-time student with a child under age 12, OR
  • A part-time student with a child under age 6, OR
  • You are a part-time student with a child age 6-11 without adequate child care, OR
  • Are receiving CalWORKs, OR
  • You are enrolled in CalFresh employment and training or another job training program accepted by CalFresh, OR
  • Do not plan to register for the next school term.

Who is not a student?

The student eligibility rules do not apply to people who are:

  • Age 17 and under or age 50 and older, OR
  • Physically and mentally “unfit” for employment, OR
  • In high school, OR
  • Enrolled less than half-time, OR
  • You are enrolled in programs or classes that do not require a high school diploma or GED, OR
  • Enrolled in schools that are not considered institutions of higher education.

If you are not a student and you meet the other eligibility requirements, you should apply for CalFresh.

Is there a CalWIN Mobile App?

The CalWIN Mobile application allows you to check your California public assistance benefits wherever you are, whenever you want, including your CalFresh benefits.

In addition, with the app, you can get information on public assistance programs and find a public assistance office in your area.

Furthermore, you can see if a disaster has been declared in your zip code.

The CalWIN mobile app is available for Apple devices and Andriod users. Click here to download the app from the Apple Store, and for download from the Google play store, click here.

"California CalWIN Mobile App"

California Food Stamps Eligibility Summary

We hope this article on California food stamps eligibility was helpful.

If so, we encourage you to share this article with anyone who may also find it helpful by using the “Share this” button below.

If you have additional questions about the California food stamps or California EBT, please leave those in the comments section below. We are here to help you!

Be sure to check out our other articles about EBT, including How to get 50% OFF Amazon Prime for EBT Cardholders and California EBT Guide, and California EBT Balance Check

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