We understand you may have many questions about applying for and using CalFresh. Please see the following frequently asked questions for clarification. If you need additional information, please contact Stephanie Nishio at (510) 350-9905 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Application Process:
What does the application process look like?
Does it cost money to apply for CalFresh?
Will I have to go into the CalFresh office? I live far away and don’t have transportation.
How long will it take to know if I've been approved?
What information will I need when to apply?
Will I have to get fingerprinted?
How much will I get each month?
What if I own a car?
What if I have a job?
What if I own my home?
What if I am homeless?
Can I qualify if I do not have a family?
Can I get CalFresh if I am in the military?
Can I get CalFresh if I’m in college?
I just moved to another city in California. Who should I tell so that I keep getting CalFresh?
I lost my EBT card. How do I get another one?
I own a store. How can I apply to accept CalFresh at my store?
The Application Process:
You can complete a CalFresh application at your local county office or online at benefitscal.org. To learn where you can apply in-person in your county (or to find places that can help you fill out an application), please use our Find Food Assistance tool.
No. Applying for CalFresh is free and does not require a credit check.
No. You can apply for and receive CalFresh benefits without ever going into the CalFresh office. In fact, many counties have organizations that can help people with their applications. See what is available in your county by using our Find Food Assistance tool.You can apply online at benefitscal.org, complete your interview over the phone, and have your EBT card mailed to you.
In most cases, the county has 30 days after you turn in your application to determine if you will get CalFresh (food stamps). During the 30 days, the county will interview you. The interview will be either over the phone or in person.
During the interview, the county will go over your application with you. The county may ask you for proof of income and certain costs (for example, child care or rent receipts). You will have 10 days to turn in these items.
The county may grant a household CalFresh benefits in three days if the household qualifies for “expedited service.” A household qualifies for expedited service if it
- 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.
The county may ask you for “verifications,” or proof of your income and costs. Here are some examples of items the county may ask you for:
- Proof of identity (examples: drivers license or identification card, passport, work or school ID, birth certificate, voter registration card)
- Proof of where you live (examples: drivers license or ID card, utility bill, rent receipt)
- Proof of income (examples: pay stubs, statement from employer, alimony check, award letter for unemployment or disability benefits )
- Social security numbers for everyone who is applying
- Proof of shelter costs (examples: housing bills, utility bills, HOA fees, property tax statement)
- Child support court order
- Child or adult care costs (example: bills)
- Proof of disability (example: award letter)
- Proof of medical costs if 60+ or disabled (examples: receipts for prescriptions, copay, service animal costs, glasses, 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.
If you are only applying for CalFresh you will not be fingerprinted. If you are applying for another program you may be fingerprinted.
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 (source). This chart shows the maximum benefit amounts at each household size:
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.
CalFresh benefits are issued on an EBT card that works like a debit card. You can use it at most grocery stores and many farmers markets.
CalFresh can be used to buy food like
- Fruits and vegetables;
- Beans, fish, poultry, meat;
- Rice, bread, tortillas, cereal;
- Milk and cheese; and
- Seeds and plants that produce food.
CalFresh cannot be used to buy
- Alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes;
- Non-food items (pet food, toilet paper, diapers, soap, etc.);
- Vitamins and medicine;
- Foods that will be eaten in the store; and
- Hot foods (unless your county participates in the Restaurant Meals Program).
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.
You can own a car and still qualify for CalFresh.
You can have a job and still qualify for CalFresh.
You can own the home you live in and still qualify for CalFresh.
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.
Individuals can qualify for CalFresh. You do not have to have children to qualify.
If you meet the eligibility requirements you can qualify for CalFresh if you are in the military.
You may be able to qualify. Read more at The California Guide to Food Benefits. Even if you do not qualify, others in your household may.
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 city in 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.
Call 1-877-328-9677 to report your EBT card lost or stolen.
Please visit this site to fill out an application.