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How to Apply for CalFresh Benefits, Formerly Known as Food Stamps 

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The Application Process:

In California, each county may have a different way to apply for CalFresh benefits. Apply in your county, or online at the Benefitscal.com Website.

You can also mail or deliver your application to your local county office. You can download and print an application.

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  • You may request an application for CalFresh by phone, in person, by fax, or by mail from your county office.
  • Applications for CalFresh benefits are available online.
  • One adult household member or authorized representative must sign the application for CalFresh benefits under penalty of perjury.
  • Complete as much of your application as you can. Your name, address and signature are necessary on the application to be accepted by the local CalFresh office. The application will be accepted on the same day it is turned in, even if there is no interview on that day.
  • When your application has been turned in, the county welfare department will set up an interview to go over your application. Here is a list of documents you will need to bring to your interview.
  • As soon as all necessary information is provided and verified for eligibility, you will be able to receive your CalFresh benefits within 30 days of your dated application.
  • You may be categorically eligible if you are receiving CalWORKs, General Assistance (GA), or General Relief (GR).
  • You may qualify for expedited service and receive your CalFresh benefits within three (3) days if you meet the requirements.

Household Member – Calfresh Households

A CalFresh household is a group of people who live together, buy food, and prepare meals together and whose members meet the eligibility requirements and are approved for benefits. The amount of CalFresh benefits you get will depend on the number of eligible people in your household and on how much monthly income is left after certain expenses (deductions) are subtracted.

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Interview

  • An interview is required before certifying your household to get CalFresh benefits. The interview can occur in the county office or by telephone (in most counties). The interview may be held with the head of household, spouse, the authorized representative or any other responsible household family member. An interview is required annually.
  • An eligibility worker will explain the program rules and help your household complete any parts of the application that have not yet been completed.
  • After the interview, the CalFresh office will send a notice. If your household does not qualify for CalFresh benefits, the notice will explain why. If your household does qualify, the notice will explain how much the CalFresh benefit will be for your household. It will also explain how many months you can receive CalFresh benefits (certification period) before being recertified.
  • Local CalFresh office officials may waive the face-to-face part of the interview requirement if traveling to the county welfare department would be a hardship for your household. The face-to-face feature must be waived if your household is composed only of elderly or disabled members with no earned income.

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Documents to Bring to Interview

If you have a face-to-face interview, please bring verification with you of your income and expenses. If you cannot get all the information together by your interview date, still come for the interview because you will have additional time to provide this information. If you need assistance in obtaining this information, please discuss this with your CalFresh worker at the time of the interview. The following are examples of what to bring:

  • Proof of identity (driver's license, etc.), alien status.
  • Social Security Numbers for all household members.
  • If employed, proof of income (wage stubs, earning statements, etc.) for the past 30 days.
  • Bank statements for checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, credit union accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, etc.
  • Proof of shelter costs (rent or mortgage payment, lot rent, household, real estate, taxes, utility bills – heat, electricity, water/sewage/garbage, telephone, etc.)

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Verification

The CalFresh worker will also ask for proof of certain information that has been reported. The following must be verified prior to certification:

  • Identification
  • Immigration Status (in some cases)
  • Sponsored Noncitizen Information (in some cases)
  • Residency
  • SSN number for all Household Members
  • Gross Income
  • Evidence of Disability
  • Utility Expenses
  • Medical Expenses
  • Child Support Obligations and Payments

For expedited service, only identification is required and other verification can be postponed. Other verification such as shelter costs, dependent care costs, household size, and liquid resources do not require verification unless questionable.

Categorical Eligibility

Households in which all members are authorized or receiving cash aid, such as CalWORKS or GA/GR, are considered categorically eligible. This means the CalFresh Program accepts eligibility determinations made by the other program for resources, gross and net income limits, sponsored alien information, county residency, and social security number information. CalFresh Households containing California Food Assistance (CFAP) recipients are not categorically eligible.

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Expedited Service

Households that qualify for expedited service (ES) go through the same application process as all other clients, but not all information has to be verified before benefits are issued. Households may qualify for (ES) based if the household:

  • Has less than $150 in monthly gross income and liquid resources of $100 or less; or
  • Migrant or seasonal farm workers who are destitute; or
  • Combined monthly gross income and liquid resources which are less than the household monthly rent or mortgage and utilities; or
  • Is homeless.

ES CalFresh benefits will be made available to the household no later than the third calendar day following the date the application was filed. Applicants are informed of and are automatically considered for expedited service at the time the application is filed.

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