CalFresh FAQs during COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions About CalFresh Eligibility During COVID-19 Crisis

1. General Eligibility & Student Eligibility

How soon should CalFresh clients report to Social Services about their change of residing address?

Not required to be reported during the pandemic unless a client would like to.

 

If a student is no longer active in a student exempted program such as a student in EOP do they need to report this to the county? For example, if EOP programming has been disrupted due to campus closure.

Due to Governor Newsom’s executive order, eligibility redeterminations will be  waived. This means current CalFresh recipients who no longer meet an exemption due to the pandemic, will not have to worry about reporting this change for (at least) 90 days. 

Example: A student was in EOP as their only exemption but now their campus is not offering EOP services.

 

Will the federal government’s stimulus check/deposit count towards a client’s income for CalFresh Food?

No, the federal government’s one-time stimulus payment is exempt from being counted as income for CalFresh Food because it is not anticipated to be received on a continuing basis. 

However, unemployment insurance will count as income for CalFresh Food and you must report this income to CalFresh.

 

If a student no longer has access to their meal plan due to campus closure, can they apply for CalFresh?

Yes, if students are no longer able to access their meal plans and meet all other CalFresh eligibility requirements, they can now apply and their meal plan will not affect their eligibility. If they are asked about their meal plan during their interview, they should note that they no longer have access to it.

 

Is there any guidance for students who were previously working 20 hours a week and now are working fewer hours or not at all due to COVID-19 and are applying for CalFresh?

CDSS’ request for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to temporarily waive student eligibility requirements has been denied.  

Students who are applying for CalFresh will still need to meet current eligibility requirements in order to receive CalFresh. 

A student may claim “good cause” as a last resort; however, there is no guarantee that it will be granted. "Good cause" is determined by the county on a case-by-case basis.

 

If I had to relocate to a different county, which county should I apply for CalFresh in?

You should apply in the county that you are currently living in.

Once the application has been processed and approved, if your return to your original county, your CalFresh case will be trnasferred.

 

If I applied for unemployment benefits, can I still apply for CalFresh?

Yes. You can apply for CalFresh while your unemployment claim is pending. You still still need to meet eligibility requirements in order to receive CalFresh.

 

When do I need to report a change in my unemployment claim/benefits?

During the application process:

  • If your unemployment claim is approved/denied, you will need to report this change and provide verification.

After the application process & benefits have been approved:

  • A change in your unemployment benefits only needs to be reported within 10 days if you are over your Income Reporting Threshold (IRT).

 

If I was approved for CalFresh but had to temporarily relocate before receiving the EBT card, can a replacement card be sent to my current address without a change in county residency?

Yes, clients can report a temporary change in mailing address and then request for a replacement EBT card.

This is a temporary change and should not affect county residency if there is an intent to return back once the pandemic ends. 

A change in physical address will prompt a change in county residency.

 

If a CalFresh recipient has relocated to another state and does not plan to return to California, can their case be transferred?

No. Transfer of cases are only initiated within the state and only between counties.

 

What can I, as a student, submit to the County Eligibility Worker as verification that my Cal Grant is TANF funded?

If your Cal Grant is TANF funded, you should have received either an email or a physical letter (hyperlinked) from CSAC notifying you that you may be eligible for CalFresh. 

A majority of students should have received this letter via email (oftentimes it is in the junk folder). CSAC will only send a physical letter if the student did not provide an email address  or the email address on the FAFSA application was not valid.

 

When can families anticipate receiving their P-EBT card?

For families with children attending K-12 who were receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care before school closures, they can anticipate automatically receiving their P-EBT card in the mail from May 12th - May 22nd.

 

Where can I get more information about the P-EBT program?

California Food Policy Advocates has put out a very informative and comprehensive FAQ guide about pandemic EBT in California. (pdf)

Also, Five Things to Know About Pandemic EBT in California.

 

Is the P-EBT card different from the CalFresh EBT card?

Yes. Please do not throw away your CalFresh EBT card. P-EBT cards are not replacement cards. Although these are two separate cards, both benefits can be used to purchase the same food items, used  online at Amazon and at farmers’ markets (certified CalFresh vendor).

 

How do families with children in K-12, but were not receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care before school closures, apply for P-EBT benefits?

Families who did not receive a P-EBT in the mail by May 22nd, will need to apply online at https://ca.p-ebt.org/. The online application site will not be available until May 22nd.

The deadline to apply has been extended to July 15, 2020. 

 

Is there an expiration date on P-EBT cards?

Yes. P-EBT cards can be used up to a year from when benefits were issued. After that date, any unused benefits will be voided.

 

How much P-EBT benefits can families receive?

Families may receive up to $365/child. Not all families will receive the full amount. This will depend on when these families become certified for free and reduced price school meals.

 

How often will P-EBT benefits be received?

At this time, this is a 1 time benefit payment for the months of March, April, May and June, and is not anticipated to continue.

 

Will P-EBT benefits affect immigration status?

Guidance from CDSS:

  • These are emergency relief benefits similar to other emergency aid that the Department of Homeland Security has stated they will not consider as public charge.

  • However, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can consider several factors under their public charge tests.

Remember, public charge does not apply to all immigrants. For additional guidance, please consult with an immigration lawyer or advisor. https://covid19.ca.gov/guide-immigrant-californians/

  • Five Things To Know About Pandemic EBT in California, by California Food Policy Advocates, the California Association of Food Banks and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. According to experts at the Protecting Immigrant Families Campaign led by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy, P-EBT is not considered in a public charge determination (link).

 

Why was I charged a delivery fee when I used my CalFresh EBT card to purchase more than $35 in food items through Walmart.com?

Walmart has 2 commerce websites. 

The correct site to use to not be charged a delivery fee on EBT online food purchases of $35 of more is through Walmart Groceries https://grocery.walmart.com/

Regardless of payment type or purchase amount, a delivery fee will be charged if you purchase food items from https://walmart.com.

Walmart has acknowledged the confusion between the two commerce websites and has agreed to work with CalFresh recipients on possibly providing a delivery fee reimbursement for EBT food purchases made between April 28th - May 6th. Contact Walmart for further instructions. Please note that there is no guarantee that a reimbursement will be made. Every situation is unique and the final determination will depend on Walmart.

 

Information has been circulating on social media that clients/families need to be tested for COVID-19 in order to receive/continue receiving their CalFresh benefits. Is this information true?

No. CDSS has confirmed that this is a fake letter: State departments and county human services departments will NEVER ask about a client’s health status in connection to an application for benefits. For more information on this topic, visit: https://cdss.ca.gov/#beware-of-fake-letter

 

During the pandemic, are there any emergency or disaster aid for undocumented individuals?

Yes, although the eligibility criteria has not been modified to allow undocumented individuals to receive CalFresh, there is disaster relief assistance that is available starting today. Visit https://cdss.ca.gov/inforesources/immigration/covid-19-drai for more information on how individuals can apply for this 1 time payment. 

For additional guidance on whether this payment is considered public charge, please contact an immigration lawyer or advisor. https://covid19.ca.gov/guide-immigrant-californians/

 

Are Assembly Bill 12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, payments or stipends counted as income?

Yes, if the payments are directly received by the former foster youth, the full amount is counted as income. This is also the case for any monthly stipend that is received from a provider. 

No, if the payments are paid directly to a housing provider and not given to the former foster youth, these payments are not counted as income.

 

2. SAR7 & Recertification

If a client gets their SAR 7 or Recertification from the county is there a grace period due to governor Newsom’s executive order?

Yes, all March, April, and May, SAR7s and Recertifications have been waived. These clients will be reassigned a new 6 month certification period. Recertifications will be completed at the end of this new 6 month period.

3.Governor’s Executive Order Summary

When does the 90 days expire for changes that were detailed in Governor Newsom’s Executive Order below?

As of right now, they will expire on May 31, 2020. If anything is extended, we will update this entry.

New Applicants

No Changes to Regular Requirements - Need to Verify:

  • Residency

  • Identity

  • Social Security Number

  • Income

  • Disability

  • Student Exemption

  • Property (self-attestation for Expedited Service purposes only)

Not required to be verified unless questionable:

  • Citizenship

  • Shelter expenses

  • Loss of employment

Good Cause:

  • A condition outside of the applicant’s control

  • Use as a last resort

  • Is not guaranteed and does not waive all eligibility requirements

  • Is granted on a case-by-case basis

Current Recipients Already on CalFresh

Required to be reported:

  • Income over IRT (Income Reporting Threshold) - keep in mind, not all households have an IRT

Not required to report or complete:

  • SAR7

  • Recertifications

  • Change in address

  • Loss of student exemption

  • New employment – with income less than IRT

  • Change in household composition – unless it increases benefit amount

  • Loss of  employment or decrease in income – unless it increases benefit amount 

4. Emergency SNAP/CalFresh Efforts

Will P-SNAP/Pandemic CalFresh be happening?

Yes. Current CalFresh recipients who have active cases in the month of March and/or April will receive Pandemic CalFresh supplements to raise their benefits to the maximum allotment amount for their household size. This will be implemented through a statewide batch process and loaded onto EBT cards on the following dates:  

  • March Benefits: April 12th 
  • April Benefits: May 10th
  • May Benefits: June 14th

If a household is missed during this batch process, county offices have the ability to manually issue these supplemental benefits.  
These emergency allotments are only issued for the months a household’s case was active in.  

 

Can households receive both P-SNAP and P-EBT benefits?

Yes. These are two different sources of emergency food benefits. If household meet CalFresh eligibility requirements and have children who have lost access to their free or reduced school lunch meals due to school closures, they they could potentially receive both pandemic food benefits.

 

Will D-SNAP/Disaster CalFresh be happening?

CDSS does not believe that D-SNAP will be activated at this time.  Things could certainly change but CDSS has indicated that the chances of it being activated are unlikely and would require a presidential declaration.  For more information go to CDSS Disaster CalFresh Page (Hyperlinked).

 

Can clients use CalFresh to purchase food/groceries from online retailers?  

CalFresh recipients will be allowed to use their CalFresh EBT cards to make online purchases and request grocery delivery at approved retailers statewide (currently Amazon and Walmart (www.groceries.walmart.com). Start date for this online grocery program will be implemented effective April 28th. 

For more information, visit EBT Online at https://www.cdss.ca.gov/ebt-online.