Applying for SNAP Benefits in California & Eligibility Criteria

California Food Stamps Eligibility: The food stamps system in California, popularly known as CalFresh, offers monthly payments to low-income families to help pay for the food costs.

Applying for SNAP Benefits

In this article, we’ll walk you through the provisions of California food stamps, including income limits, how much you’ll get if you’re accepted for benefits, how to decide if you’re eligible and what happens after applying.

Our goal is that you get all the details you need to submit a good application for CalFresh benefits by the time you finish reading this post.

About California Food Stamps

CalFresh (formerly known as Food Stamps) is an entitlement program that provides monthly benefits to help low-income households buy the food they need to maintain adequate levels of nutrition.

Those benefits are usually for any food or food product intended for human consumption. Benefits for things such as alcoholic drinks, cigarettes, or paper goods may not be included.

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

Who Can’t Get CalFresh?

Certain people are not allowed to receive CalFresh.

  • Full-time college students may not be able to get CalFresh unless they meet special rules.
  • Parole or probation violators and fleeing felons cannot get CalFresh.

Special Note:
People with such convictions of a drug crime are currently not eligible for CalFresh.

Even individuals with convictions of drug felony can apply as of 1 April 2015, provided they meet certain criteria.

If you need food it’s very important to apply for CalFresh. They will then determine your eligibility.

Eligibility Requirements

If your income falls within certain limits you may be eligible for CalFresh. Individuals who buy and prepare food together form one household for CalFresh purposes and must have their group/household eligibility determined.

There are circumstances in which certain individuals have to be included in the same household irrespective of whether they buy and prepare their meals.

Examples include parents and children under the age of 22, in-house spouses, and adults who exercise parental control over minors.

Below are Some of the Basic CalFresh Rules


Must be a San Diego County Resident. Persons with no permanent residence or fixed mailing address may receive CalFresh as long as they are residents of San Diego County.


The identity of the claimant shall be checked. Identity can be verified through a variety of documents including, but not limited to, Motor Vehicle Department ID or driver’s license, work or school ID, voter registration card, or birth certificate.

Citizenship Status

  1. S. citizens and many non-citizens are eligible for CalFresh. Even if some members of the household are not eligible, those who are may be able to get CalFresh benefits.

Social Security Numbers

Individuals who qualify for CalFresh benefits, including children, must either provide a Social Security number or provide evidence that they have applied for a Social Security Number.

Household members who are not eligible for CalFresh do not have to have a Social Security Number or submit it.

Asset Limits

Effective February 1, 2011, assets for most CalFresh applicants and recipients will not be considered or verified to determine eligibility to CalFresh.


What is CalFresh food benefits revenue cap (food stamps)? Use the chart below to see if your household is earning less than the monthly gross income cap.

Net income factors in deductions and taxation, which is a complicated process. So if your household income is below the gross limit, you should be applying to find out if it is within the net limit.

Household sizeGross monthly income limit*Net monthly income limitMax benefit
Each additional member$737$360$146

_* If your household includes an elderly (60+) or disabled person, a higher gross income might still qualify._


Deductions are expenses allowed under the program that can be subtracted from the household’s monthly gross income to determine eligibility and the amount of CalFresh benefits that will be received monthly. CalFresh deductions include:

  • 20% deduction from earned income,
  • Standard deduction of $167 for households with 1-3 members,
  • Standard deduction of $178 for a household with 4 members,
  • Medical expenses exceeding $35 for elderly or disabled household members,
  • Standard deduction of $209 for a household with 5 members,
  • Standard deduction of $240 for a household with 6 or more members,
  • Cost of child care when needed to work, seek work or attend training for work,
  • Court-ordered child support payments paid to non-household members, and
  • A portion of shelter (rent or mortgage) and utility costs

Work Rules

Most non-dependent adults between the ages of 18 and 50 must register for work or work at least 20 hours a week or an average of 80 hours a month to obtain CalFresh benefits.

NOTE: CalFresh beneficiaries (except those seeking General Relief) are not required to comply with the Job Rules set out above due to a federal exception for the State of California. If you have any questions, dial toll-free Access at 866-262-9881.

How Much Will I Receive in California Food Stamps?


The amount of benefits a household gets from food stamps depends on how many people there are in the household and how much net monthly income remains after allowable deductions are taken.

Since food stamps households are supposed to spend about 30 percent of their own money on food, the amount of food stamps you earn is determined by multiplying your household’s net monthly income by 0.3 and subtracting the outcome from your household’s maximum monthly allocation.

People in HouseholdMaximum Monthly Allotment
Each additional person+$146

How and Where to Get a CalFresh Application

The CalFresh process begins with an application. You can apply in person, online, or by sending an application in the mail.

If you need expedited (emergency) CalFresh benefits, applying in person at the local office is best. There are a number of ways to get an application in California including:

  • Contact the state-wide hotline CalFresh: The toll-free phone number is (877) 847-3663. Now the hotline takes calls in both English and Spanish. When applicants enter their zip code, they can hear details about specific applications for counties. With requests with applications, an operator is available during business hours.
  • Contact the county directly: Applicants can find contact information in the phone book or online for their district. They can apply by phone, fax, mail, or in person.
  • Download a Web application: A person can download a CalFresh application in a variety of languages as well.
  • Apply online: People can apply electronically, via their county’s automation program.
  • Pick up an application at a community location: there are also CalFresh applications for legal aid offices, community service organizations, food banks, and welfare rights organizations. Many food banks and community groups also have “food helpers” that can help with applications online.
  • Apply for subsidized school meals: Counties and schools will view a reduced-cost meal application as a CalFresh application if they have a Memorandum of Understanding ( MOU) with the Local Education Department. [ACIN I-38-13.] (This initiative is voluntary at this stage because no additional funding has been given. Check with your county to see if it is participating.)
  • Get linked through Social Security benefits

Next Steps After Applying

  • Get interviewed: HSA CalFresh will schedule your phone interview. The interview takes about 30 minutes to confirm application information.
  • Wait for determination: You will receive an approval or denial of your application within 30 days.
  • Need temporary food relief? You can request Expedited Services within three days if you’re experiencing extremely low income, lack of resources, or extremely high housing expenses.
  • Obtain your EBT card: The quickest way to get your card is at one of our three service centers. Getting a card by mail can take one week and the PIN may arrive in a separate envelope.
  • Disagree with a determination? You can appeal your denial or benefit amount by calling (800) 952-5253, or by mailing the
    Appeals Unit, P.O. Box 7988, San Francisco CA 94120.

How do I Renew My CalFresh Food Stamps Benefits?

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

Step 1

You will receive a letter from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) with guidance about when and how to renew your benefits a few weeks before your food stamp benefits are due to expire.

Step 2

Follow the instructions and renew your benefits before the letter specifies the due date. You can renew your benefits online, maybe. However, if you do not provide online renewal as an option, complete the paperwork given and turn it in at your local CDSS office.

For the CDSS county office closest to you, click here. If you have any concerns about renewing your food stamps in California, contact your caseworker, local CDSS office, or the Calfresh Information Line: 1-877-847-3663.

Frequently Asked Questions

CalFresh is a program of nutrition that can help households buy healthy food. In California, the Food Stamp System used to be branded as CalFresh. The service is nationally recognized as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ( SNAP). It is being federally funded.

To figure out if you qualify for Carlifornia food stamps, they will need to know your:

  • Household size: How many people you live and buy/make food with.
  • 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.).

Anyone you live and buy/make food with counts a member of your household.

  • 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.

Yeah, as long as you’re not leaving a job or deliberately raising your hours to apply. For more details , please visit your local office or call the California SNAP hotline: 1-877-847-3663

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

Non-citizens whose legal status is suitable are eligible for food stamps. Skilled aliens include refugees, trafficking victims, Cuban and Haitian immigrants, special-status Iraqi and Afghan immigrants and more.

  • Enrolled less than half time.
  • Employed at least 20 hours/week.
  • Receiving federal or state work study financial aid.
  • Receiving cash assistance (TANF).
  • Enrolled in a program that doesn’t require a high school diploma.

Some states have additional exceptions for students. Call the California SNAP hotline to learn more: 1-877-847-3663.

Yes. To apply for food stamps you do not need to have a mailing address or housing. If you live in a shelter that gives you free meals right now, you can still apply for food stamps. While homeless, there are some restaurants where you can also use your food stamps.

Your household size will increase once your kid is born. More Members of the family = more benefits. You can’t get more food stamps while you’re pregnant but you can apply for Women , Children, and Children (WIC) benefits. WIC offers education and services for pregnant mothers, new parents and children up to age 5.

You can complete a CalFresh application at your local county office or online at benefitscal.org.

No. Applying for CalFresh is free and does not require a credit check.

No. No. You will register for CalFresh benefits and get them without ever going to the CalFresh office. Many counties actually have organizations that can help people with their apps. You can apply to benefitscal.org online, complete your telephone interview and get your EBT card sent to you.

In most cases, the county has 30 days to determine if you will be getting CalFresh (food stamps) after you turn in your application. The county will interview you within the 30 days. The interview is either in person or over the phone.

The county will be going over your application with you during the interview. The county may ask you for proof of income and some expenses (for example, receipts for child care or rent). You ‘re going to have 10 days to turn in these items.

The county may award a CalFresh benefits to a household within three days if the household qualifies for “accelerated service.”

  • Has less than $150 in monthly income and less than $100 in liquid resources (cash, savings, or checking); or
  • Has housing costs that are more than its monthly income and liquid resources; or
  • Is a migrant or seasonal farm worker who is destitute.

amples of items the county may ask you for:

  • Identity proof (examples: driver’s license or ID card, passport, job or school ID, birth certificate, voter registration card)
  • Examples of where you live (e.g. drivers license or ID card, utilities bill, rent receipt)
  • Social identification numbers for whoever applies
  • A proof of income (e.g. pay stubs, employer statement, alimony check, unemployment award letter, or disability benefits)
  • Evidence of shelter expenses (e.g. rental bills, energy bills, HOA taxes, property tax declarations)
  • Order in court for child support
  • Cost of child care or adult care (example: bills)
  • Disability certificate (example: letter of award)
  • Evidence of medical expenses if +60 or impaired (examples: drug payments, copay, animal care charges, shoes, hearing aids)

Even if you do not have everything on the list, you should still apply. The county may be able to help you get the information.

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