CalFresh Eligibility Basics and FAQs

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Eligibility Basics

In CalFresh, a household is a group of people who regularly buy and eat food together. The people in a household do not have to be related to each other.

  • Households can be as small as one person
  • The same address can have more than one household
  • You don’t need to have a home to receive CalFresh

Basic Eligibility Questions:

Does anyone in your household have a social security number? 

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

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

  • Please note the following household types that must apply together:
    • Children under the age of 22 who are living with their biological, adoptive, or stepparent(s)
    • A married couple who lives together
    • An unmarried couple living together with a common child

Income Guidelines
October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021

Household Size Gross Monthly Income Food Allotment Range
1 $2,128 $16 - $204
2 $2,874 $16 - $374
3 $3,620 $16 - $535
4 $4,368 $16 - $680
5 $5,114 $16 - $807
6 $5,860 $16 - $969
7 $6,608 $16 - $1,071
8 $7,354 $16 - $1,224
*Add this amount for each additional member + $748 + $153

 

If you answered YES to both questions, you may qualify for CalFresh. You can apply online through Sonoma State's CalFresh application portal, or get more information about applying in your county.  We highly encourage you to make an appointment to meet with one of our CalFresh advisors to be prescreened and to receive assistance with applying online. Visit our CalFresh homepage and scroll down to the Application Process section for the recommended steps to follow for best results.

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. See Seniors & Disabled People for more information.

 

CalFresh FAQs

APPLYING

Do I have to go into the office to apply or to complete the interview? No. You can apply for and receive CalFresh benefits without ever going into the CalFresh office. You can apply online, complete your interview over the phone, and have your EBT card mailed to you

Does it cost money to apply for CalFresh? No. Applying for CalFresh is free and does not require a credit check.

Will I have to get fingerprinted? If you are only applying for CalFresh you will not be fingerprinted. If you are applying for another program you may be fingerprinted.

How long will it take to know if I’ve been approved? In most cases, the county has 30 days after you turn in your application to determine if you will get CalFresh. During the 30 days, the county will interview you. The interview will be either over the phone or in person.

ELIGIBILITY

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.

What if no one in my household is a U.S. citizen? You may still qualify if you or someone in your household has a Green Card, or is a lawful permanent resident (LPR). For additional information see the USDA Food and Nutrition Service policy on Non-Citizen Eligibility at
https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligibility/citizen/non-citizen-policy.

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.

I live with roommates, but we buy separate groceries. Will we be a household of 1 or 2? For CalFresh purposes, a household is defined as an individual, couple, or family that purchases and prepares food together, meets certain income guidelines, and has U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency. If each roommate purchases and prepares food separately, each will be a household of one.

I am 21 and live with my parents; can I apply for CalFresh as my own household? People who must apply together include:

  • A married couple who lives together
  • Children under 22 living with their biological, adoptive, or stepparent(s)
  • An unmarried couple living together with a common child

STUDENTS

Can I get CalFresh if I’m in college? You may be able to qualify, see the student section for more information. Even if you do not qualify, others in your household may.

I am approved for work study, but I do not have a work study job. Could I be eligible for CalFresh? Work study meets student eligibility if you are a college student between the ages of 18 and 49, enrolled half-time and you have approved (accepted or awarded) federal or state work study, anticipate working, and have not refused a work assignment.

Do I need to work 20 hours per week to meet student eligibility? Working and being paid for at least 20 hours per week is a student eligibility, but there are other exemptions students can meet in lieu of working: (any one of the following)

  • having approved (awarded or accepted) federal or state work study
  • received Cal Grant A or B (TANF) and met additional qualifications
  • enrolled in a state funded program that increases employability
  • enrolled in a program that increases employability for current and former foster youth
  • exerting parental control over a dependent household member
  • participating in CalFresh Employment and Training Program, or Job Opportunities and Basic Skills
  • be a recipient of CalWORKs or Aid to Families with Dependent Children.

I live in the dorms and I have a meal plan, can I be eligible for CalFresh? If your household is receiving more than half (11 or more) of their meals per week from another source, they may not be eligible for CalFresh. If receiving 10 or less meals per week from another source, they may be eligible for CalFresh.

I am an out-of-state student, but I reside in California for the school year, can I be eligible for Calfresh? Out-of-state students may still be eligible for CalFresh if residing in California for the school year. The student would need to apply for CalFresh benefits in their county of residency.

What does NOT count as income?

Financial Aid Programs:

  • Pell Grants (BEOG), Cal Grants
  • Federal/state college work study
  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG)
  • Stafford/Perkins loans
  • Educational assistance such as deferred payment loans, privte grants or scholarship, if earmarked for allowable educational expenses

Other money sources:

  • Bills paid directly by parents (where the student never handles the money)
  • Personal loans that need to be paid back
  • CalFresh is not considered income and does not affect taxes or financial aid

What counts as income?

  • Earned income (wages, self-employment)
  • Unearned income, like money/allowances from others
  • Stipends
  • Foster Youth Benefits if student receives money directly
  • Military/Veteran Families; some counted and others not counted as income

IMMIGRANTS

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. 

SNAP Policy on Non-Citizen Eligibility

 

SENIORS and DISABLED PEOPLE

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.

 

SSI RECIPIENTS

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.

 

BENEFITS

How do I use my CalFresh benefits? CalFresh benefits are issued on an EBT card that works like a debit card. You can use it at most grocery stores, including online through Amazon and Walmart Groceries, and many farmers markets.

When will I receive my CalFresh benefits? In all California counties, except Los Angeles, benefits are issued on the day of the month as the last digit on the card. See here for more information and the distribution schedule for Los Angeles.

If I get CalFresh am I taking benefits away from other people? Everyone who qualifies for CalFresh will get benefits. In California, there are about 4 million people who are eligible but not receiving CalFresh. For every $5 of CalFresh spent in a community, another $9 of local economic activity is generated. This helps support jobs and businesses in your community.

How much will I get each month? The amount of CalFresh you get depends on many things, including your household’s size, income, and costs. The average CalFresh household gets over $300 each month.

Will I have to pay back the benefits? You will not have to pay back any benefits you were eligible to receive. If there is a mistake and you receive more than you are eligible for, you will be responsible for paying that amount back.

I lost my EBT card. How do I get another one? Call 1-877-328-9677 to report your EBT card lost or stolen.

Will CalFresh affect my financial aid or taxes? CalFresh is not considered income and so NO it does not affect your fiancial aid or taxes.

 

MOVING

I just moved to another city in California. Who should I tell so that I keep getting CalFresh? If you moved to a city in the same county you lived in before, update your address with the CalFresh office right away. This will ensure you will still get important notices about your CalFresh. If you moved to a different county, contact the CalFresh office in your new county right away and request an Inter-County Transfer. The county can transfer your case and you should not have to reapply.

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