How To

How to Apply for CalFresh Benefits: Steps, Application, and More

If you need help putting food on the table, you may be wondering how to apply for the CalFresh program.

This guide will outline the steps necessary to apply for CalFresh benefits, as well as provide some helpful information about the program itself.

By the end of this guide, you should have a good understanding of how to apply for CalFresh and whether or not you may be eligible for benefits.

> Jump to the online application process

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

What is CalFresh?

CalFresh is a federally-funded program that provides low-income households with monthly benefits to purchase food.

In order to receive these benefits, households must meet certain eligibility requirements and complete an application process.

CalFresh is an entitlement program that provides monthly benefits to help low-income households purchase the food they need to maintain adequate nutritional levels.

It is the name of the USDA-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the state of California and is funded by the federal government.

CalFresh benefits are provided in the form of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, and recipients receive a monthly allowance to spend on food.

CalFresh benefits are used to purchase food items such as fruits, vegetables, bread, and other healthy foods, but cannot be used to buy items such as cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, or paper products.

CalFresh can be used to purchase food items at grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and restaurants, and for online grocery delivery.

Through CalFresh, eligible individuals and households can receive up to $281 per month to spend on groceries.

Eligibility Requirements for the CalFresh Program

The CalFresh Program is available to U.S. Citizens or Legal Immigrants who:

  • have lived in the U.S. for at least five (5) years
  • are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits
  • are children under 18 years of age
  • or meet the work and income requirements

Generally, services are available to low-income individuals and families who have a gross monthly income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line.

> Read more about the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) at HealthCare.gov.

To determine eligibility, you must consider factors such as citizenship, income, and the number of people in your household who purchase and prepare food.

Additionally, an individual may not be eligible for CalFresh if they receive more than half (11 or more) meals per week from another source or are provided with the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

College students between the ages of 18-49 who are enrolled at least half-time (typically 6+ units) may also be ineligible, but additional student eligibility information should be consulted.

Finally, those who are physically or mentally unable to work, or who are receiving disability benefits from any source, are automatically eligible.

To apply for CalFresh, you will need to fill out an application and submit it to your local county office. You can find the application online or at your local county office.

The application will ask for information about your household, such as how many people live in your home and what their incomes are.

Jump To: How To Apply for CalFresh

What Documents Are Needed to Apply for the CalFresh Program?

In order to apply for the CalFresh Program, you need to gather the following documents:

  • valid identification (driver’s license, passport, or state identification card)
  • pay stubs for the last 30 days
  • rent receipt or lease agreement
  • class schedule (for students only)
  • financial aid award letter (for students only, if applicable)
  • proof of $0 Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) (for students only, if applicable)

Additionally, you will need to fill out an Application for CalFresh form with your name, address, and signature.

You’ll also need to review the Notice to CalFresh Applicants (form 09-94 HHSA) for additional information.

You can apply for CalFresh online, by phone, mail, fax, or in person.

Medical Information

Medical bills and expenses for persons who are 60+ years old and/or have permanent disabilities. If you are 60+ or disabled, proof of medical expenses.

Having a criminal history may affect your eligibility to receive CalFresh benefits.

Individuals who have been convicted of certain felonies, such as drug-related offences, may not be eligible for CalFresh benefits.

In addition, individuals convicted of violating food stamp program rules may also be barred from receiving CalFresh.

Furthermore, any individual who has been found guilty of intentionally providing false information or withholding information to receive CalFresh benefits may be denied receiving benefits.

Therefore, it is important to understand the criminal history search process and review any criminal record that may exist before submitting a CalFresh application.

Child Support Agreement

The Child Support Agreement requirement for CalFresh eligibility is that applicants must provide proof of any child support payments that have been made in the last 12 months.

This can include a copy of a court order or written agreement, or any other document from a government agency or child support office.

In addition, applicants must provide proof of any child or dependent care expenses paid in the last 12 months, as well as proof of any medical expenses for persons who are 60+ years old and/or have permanent disabilities.

Education Documents

For students, a class schedule and a financial aid award letter may be needed to verify student status and eligibility for CalFresh benefits.

What is the CalFresh Emergency Allotment 2022 California?

The CalFresh emergency allotment for 2022 is an additional amount of benefits that can be provided to eligible households during times of need.

The emergency allotment is intended to help families meet their basic needs for food and shelter during periods of economic hardship.

To be eligible for the emergency allotment, households must meet certain criteria, such as being certified as eligible for CalFresh benefits and having a total gross income that does not exceed 130% of the federal poverty level.

What Types of Food Can Be Purchased with CalFresh Benefits?

CalFresh benefits can only be used to purchase food items that are considered “staple” or “nutritional”.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Breads and cereals
  • Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat

This means that items such as cigarettes, alcohol, and pet food are not eligible for purchase with CalFresh benefits.

In addition, CalFresh benefits cannot be used to purchase hot foods or food that is ready to eat.

How Can I Apply for the CalFresh Program?

You can apply for CalFresh in a number of ways, including online, as outlined below, or via phone, mail, fax, or in person.

You can obtain an application by calling the statewide CalFresh hotline at (877) 847-3663, contacting your county’s office directly, downloading an application from the web, applying online, or picking up a CalFresh application form at a community location.

Here’s how to apply for CalFresh benefits online:

Step 1

Start your application

Go to getcalfresh.org and click on Apply Now to start your CalFresh application.

Step 2

Submit information

Submit the required information, which can include your ID, paystubs, rent receipts, and more. You can do this during your application or return to the website and complete it within 30 days.

Step 3

Review process

Your application is submitted for review and a county worker may call to verify your information. 

Step 4

Get money for groceries

Once approved, you’ll receive your EBT card with money for groceries within 30 days.

Helpful Tips for the Review Process

When applying for the CalFresh program, it is important to remember the following tips:

  • Submit an application and proof of your situation, which includes documents like your ID, paystubs, or rent receipts.
  • Bring in all verifications/documents needed to apply for everyone applying for benefits.
  • Download the Notice to CalFresh Applicants (form 09-94 HHSA / form 09-94 HHSA SP ) for additional information, to help you complete the application, and to select your interview preference (in-person or telephone interview).
  • Conduct your interview with a county representative by phone or in person.
  • Let the CalFresh Outreach Team know if you have not heard from the county within the first 10 days.
  • Print out the Application for CalFresh/SNAP Benefits / Solicitud Para Beneficios De CalFresh, complete as much of your application as you can, and download the Notice to CalFresh Applicants (form 09-94 HHSA / form 09-94 HHSA SP ).
  • Send the completed application and documents to your local Family Resource Center via U.S. mail, via fax, or drop them off at your local Family Resource Center.
  • Gather documents prior to starting an application, including proof of identity, to be evaluated for expedited services (receive CalFresh within 3 days).

How Will I Receive My CalFresh Benefits?

Once you have been approved for the program, you will be issued an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

This card can be used at any store that accepts EBT payments, and you can use it to purchase food items such as groceries and household supplies.

You will also be able to use your EBT card to withdraw cash from an ATM if needed.

What Is the Maximum Income To Be Eligible for the CalFresh Program?

The maximum income to be eligible for the CalFresh Program is determined by the number of people in the household.

To be eligible, the gross monthly income must be below the limits listed in the chart above.

For example, a household of one person can make up to $2,266 gross monthly income and still be eligible, while a household of two can make up to $3,052 gross monthly income and still be eligible.

Additionally, depending on the situation, college students may also be eligible for CalFresh benefits if they meet certain requirements.

Is There a Time Limit To Receive CalFresh Benefits?

Yes, there is a time limit to receive CalFresh benefits.

Normally, households can receive their benefits within 30 days of their application, however, households may be eligible for Expedited Services which can allow them to receive their benefits within 3 days.

Additionally, California has provided emergency allotments to eligible households during the COVID-19 Emergency since March 2020, but this program is set to end in February 2023.

Other Services Offered by the CalFresh Program

In addition to providing monthly benefits, the CalFresh program also offers a variety of services to assist eligible participants. These services include:

  • Screening for likely eligibility
  • Assistance in filling out and sending applications and required documents
  • Help with semi-annual and yearly recertification reports
  • Help with troubleshooting CalFresh-related issues
  • Provide referrals for other free food programs
  • Connect individuals to agencies that can provide other resources
  • Provide educational and outreach materials about CalFresh
  • Conduct community presentations
  • Conduct event outreach
  • Provide free application assistance training
  • Provide on-site application assistance to agency clients.

Conclusion

The CalFresh Program is a great resource for low-income Californians.

By following the steps in this guide, you can ensure that you will be able to get the most out of the program.

CalFresh – FAQs

Who is eligible for the CalFresh Program?

In order to be eligible for CalFresh, applicants must meet certain criteria, such as citizenship, income, and other factors. Generally, CalFresh services are available to low-income individuals and families who are U.S. Citizens or Legal Immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits, or are children under 18 years of age.

How do I apply for the CalFresh Program?

Applying for the CalFresh Program is a simple process that can be done in person, online, by phone, mail, or fax. To apply, follow these steps:

Step 1: Contact the UCSC CalFresh Outreach Program Team and take the application pre-screener to determine whether you qualify for the program.

Step 2: If you think you may be eligible, complete and submit an online application with your CalFresh Outreach Team.

Step 3: Once the application is received by the county, your 30-day application period begins. During this period, you must complete an in-person or phone interview with your county office.

Step 4: You will also need to provide verification documents to your county office, such as a copy of a government-issued ID, proof of residential address, paystubs, financial aid award letter, and/or a class schedule. For graduate students, you will need to provide proof of enrollment in your graduate program and email verification of program approval.

Step 5: After your application is approved, you will need to complete the SAR 7 Eligibility Report 6 months after your initial application is approved and will also need to complete a Recertification Application and be interviewed before the end of your certification period.

If you need assistance with the application or have any questions, contact the CalFresh Outreach Team or call the state-wide CalFresh hotline at (877) 847-3663.

What documents do I need to provide to apply for the CalFresh Program?

In order to apply for the CalFresh Program, you will need to provide documents for verification.

These may include valid identification such as a driver’s license, passport or state ID, pay stubs for the last 30 days, rent receipt or lease agreement, class schedule (for students only), financial aid award letter (for students only), and proof of $0 Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) (for students only, if applicable).

You may also need to provide health insurance, doctor bills, hospital bills, drug receipts, or pharmacy statements.

Additionally, you may need to provide documents related to immigration statuses such as a green card (I-551), I-94, or other documents provided by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

It is important to bring in all verifications and documents needed to apply for everyone applying for benefits. 

What are the income eligibility requirements for the CalFresh Program?

The CalFresh Program has income eligibility requirements based on the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). Households must have a gross monthly income at or below 200% FPL to qualify for CalFresh benefits.

What types of food can I purchase with my CalFresh benefits?

With your CalFresh benefits, you can purchase most types of food and ingredients meant for human consumption, such as fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, breads and cereals, and seeds and plants to grow your own food.

You cannot use your CalFresh benefits to purchase items such as alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, or paper products.

If you have any questions about what you can purchase with your CalFresh benefits, you can contact your county social services agency.

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Lorien is the Country Manager for Financer US and has a strong background in finance and digital marketing. She is a fintech enthusiast and a lover of all things digital.

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Last Updated: February 17, 2023

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