Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the USDA and CDSS are rapidly making changes to the way CalFresh / SNAP operates in order to respond to growing need. We will continuously update this page with information about national and statewide changes to CalFresh / SNAP.
- CDSS summary of CalFresh changes due to COVID-19 (5/15/2020)
- USDA SNAP waivers approved and denied for California
- Western Center on Law and Poverty also has a COVID-19 updates page
- California Food Policy Advocates has a COVID-19 updates page
- June 2nd: CalFresh + Online Purchasing in CA (PPT deck, webinar recording, Q&A)
- April 9th: CalFresh + COVID-19 (PPT deck, webinar recording, Q&A)
- April 16th: CalFresh + COVID-19, part 2. (PPT deck, webinar recording, Q&A)
Pandemic-EBT or "P-EBT":
** The P-EBT application is now closed **
- P-EBT was authorized in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). It's for children who receive free or reduced price lunch, and are enrolled in a school that was closed for 5+ days due to the pandemic. It does not matter whether the child/family was already on CalFresh or not - this will be a separate and additional benefit that will be mailed to families on a pre-loaded EBT card. There will not be an immigration test and it will not be counted as a "public charge" benefit. California's plan was approved on April 24th.
- USDA issued guidance to states about P-EBT on March 20th.
- USDA approved California's plan on April 24th.
- CDSS issued guidance about P-EBT on May 7th.
- CAFB developed a Q&A document for CalFresh Outreach partners and food bank staff.
- CDSS's P-EBT page has flyers, outreach materials, etc.
- New online P-EBT enquiry form
- CDSS issued an ACWDL on P-EBT on September 4th.
- Emergency SNAP was authorized in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). It allows states to provide an "emergency SNAP" boost for households who are already on SNAP. Households will be brought up to the maximum household allotment (if they are not already receiving the maximum allotment for their household size). Households will receive these benefits on April 12th, May 10th, and June 14th.
- USDA approved California's request on March 30th.
- USDA announced additional guidance about additional months of Emergency Allotments on April 21st.
Emergency Allotments (EA's) have been approved for the following months:
- April EA's will be issued on May 11th.
- May EA's will be issued on June 14th.
- June EA's will be issued on July 12th.
- July EA's will be issued on August 16th.
- August EA's will be issued on September 13th.
- September EA's will be issued on October 18th.
- See our 2-page factsheet for more information on Emergency SNAP Allotments.
- See our 1-page client-facing factsheet in English, Spanish, Chinese.
Disaster-SNAP or "D-SNAP":
- D-SNAP has not been activated at this time. If it were activated, a key aspect will be the need to authorize remote interviews, which would be addressed in Senator Harris' Pandemic Assistance Disaster Act.
Changes to SNAP rules:
ABAWD Rule Suspension:
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) includes a provision (Title III - Sec. 2301) that the ABAWD Time Limit shall not apply during the Public Health Emergency. This means that NO COUNTIES are currently implementing the ABAWD Time Limit rule in California (or any other state).
- USDA issued guidance about the ABAWD rule on March 20th.
Waived SAR-7's and Recertifications:
- On March 17th, Governor Newsom issued an executive order waiving Recertification and SAR-7 reporting for March/April/May. Benefits will continue to be granted and people will not be terminated from benefits for lack of submitting their Recertification or SAR-7.
- Households will still need to report if they are over their IRT.
- If a household has a SAR-7 due in March/April/May: the SAR-7 will not be collected/processed, and the household will be asked to complete their Recertification at the time when it is normally due for them. (i.e. if they are on a 12-month certification period, and their SAR-7 was due in March, they will still have to do their Recertification in September, like they normally would.)
- If a household has a Recertification due in March/April/May: the Recertification will not be collected/processed, and the household will be assigned a NEW Recertification date, 6 months from when it was originally due. (i.e. if they are on a 12-month certification period, and their Recertification was due in April, their Recertification will now be due in October.)
- USDA approved California's request on March 23rd.
- CDSS issued guidance about waiving Recertifications and SAR-7's on March 27th.
Waived Interview Requirement:
- From March 27th, 2020 until August 31st, 2020, California waived its CalFresh initial application and recertification interview requirement. As of September 1st, 2020, CalFresh interviews are required again, just as they were required before the COVID-19 public health emergency began.
- USDA issued guidance about waiving the interview requirement on March 26th.
- CDSS issued guidance about waived interview requirements on April 2nd.
- CDSS issued additional guidance extending this waiver until June 30th on May 28th.
- CDSS issued additional guidance extending this waiver until July 31st on June 15th.
- USDA denied California's request to waive the interview requirement in September.
- California is now allowing Eligibility Workers to document in the case record that the client verbally attested to the information provided on the application (this is called a "telephonic signature"). This means that people can apply entirely over the phone, and they do not need to physically sign documents at initial application.
- USDA approved California's request on March 27th.
- CDSS issued guidance about telephonic signatures on April 2nd.
- CDSS issued additional guidance extending this waiver until June 30th on May 28th.
- CDSS issue additional guidance extending this waiver until July 31st on June 15th.
Clarification of Verification Requirements:
- CDSS has provided clarification about what information is required in order to verify job loss or zero income. When a household member claims to have recently lost a job, the county must not require verification of job loss, unless questionable, and the client statement on the application of a recent job loss is sufficient evidence that a household cannot reasonably anticipate income from that job. This applies even if the client submits verification of income earned within 30 days of the date of application if the income was earned before the job loss.
- CDSS issued guidance about verifications on April 23rd.
- California has requested the ability to have online purchasing for EBT cards. This has been approved by the USDA, and the EBT online purchasing functionality will be available to EBT cardholders statewide on April 28th, 2020. Initially online purchasing will be available at two online retailers: Amazon and Walmart.
- The process for EBT online purchasing follows a similar process as is currently used by the customers making an online purchase with a debit or credit card. After shopping for their items online, clients will choose a delivery date and time and then are taken to the payment page. They will need to select their method of payment and will be instructed to enter their EBT card number. They will then be presented with a virtual secure Personal Identification Number (PIN) pad where they enter their PIN to complete the transaction.
- Federal law prohibits the usage of CalFresh benefits to pay for delivery, convenience, or other fees and charges associated with online purchasing. Amazon and Walmart offer free delivery on online purchases over $35.
- CDSS wrote a letter to USDA requesting this on March 20th.
- USDA announced it approves CA's plan on April 8th.
- CDSS issued guidance about online purchasing on April 14th.
- Additional information and materials about online EBT purchasing can be found here: https://www.cdss.ca.gov/ebt-online.
Other COVID-19 Related Benefits:
COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments ("Stimulus Checks")
- The Economic Impact Payments will not count as income towards CalFresh eligibility. CDSS issued guidance about this on April 17th.
- Factsheets in English and Spanish developed by the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and Western Center on Law and Poverty.
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income) recipients will get the Economic Impact Payments automatically - April 10th Social Security Administration Press Release.
Unemployment Insurance and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation/Assistance
- The additional $600 per week in Federal unemployment compensation will count as unearned income in the determination of CalFresh benefits.
- CDSS issued guidance about Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Assistance on April 21st.