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Eligibility and Issuance Requirements

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For households to receive CalFresh benefits they must provide certain information in the following areas:

If you think you may be eligible for CalFresh benefits, download an application form , fill it out, and submit it to your local County Welfare Department . Or you can file online at the Benefitscal.com Website .

Citizenship/Immigration Status

Certain non-citizens such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those admitted for permanent residence may be eligible for CalFresh benefits. Eligible household members can get CalFresh benefits even if other members of the household are not eligible.  

In general, CalFresh eligibility is available to most lawfully-present immigrants who:

  • Have lived in the country (in a qualified status) for five (5) years, or
  • Are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits, regardless of entry date, or
  • Are children under 18 years of age who are qualified and lawfully-admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationalization Act.

California also has a program for immigrants who have not lived here for five years, but have a lawful permanent resident status or “qualified” immigration status and meet all other program eligibility criteria. This CalFresh Program is known as the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Non-citizens that are in the U.S. temporarily, such as students or tourists are not eligible just as undocumented individuals are not eligible.

More information can be found in the Federal Non-Citizen Guide.

Income

CalFresh households, except those containing an aged or disabled member or where all members receive cash assistance, are subject to gross and net income determination tests. Gross Income – all non-excludable income from any source including all earned income and all unearned income. The maximum gross allowed is 130% of the Federal poverty level (FPL) or 165% of the FPL if the household has an elderly or disabled person who qualifies to be a separate household. If the household passes the gross income test, then the net income test is computed. Net income is computed by deducting the following, if applicable, from gross income. The resultant amount cannot exceed 100% of the FPL.

  • Earned income has an allowable deduction of 20% (i.e., 80% of the gross earned income counts in the calculation of benefit levels). Examples of earned income include wages and salaries, striker's benefits, etc.
  • Standard Deduction – A deduction allowed per household per month. $156 for households of 1–3 persons, $165 for 4 persons, $193 for 5 persons, and $221 for 6 or more persons (effective 10/1/14).
  • Excess Shelter – A monthly shelter cost in excess of 50% of the household's income after all above deductions are considered. The excess shelter deduction must not exceed the current maximum of $490 (effective 10/1/14).
  • Homeless Household Shelter – Available to homeless persons who are not receiving free shelter for the entire month. If the homeless shelter allowance is used, separate utility costs are not allowed because the homeless shelter allowance includes a utility component. The current allowance is $143 and remians unchanged (effective 10/1/14).
  • Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) – Allowed for a household that incurs utility costs, which are separate and apart from the household's rent/mortgage payment. The current allowance is $373 (effective 10/1/14).
  • Limited Utility Allowance (LUA) – Allowed for a household that incurs expenses for at least two separate utilities other than heating and cooling are eligible for a LUA. The LUA allowance is $113 (effective 10/1/14).
  • Telephone Utility Allowance (TUA) - A household that is not eligible for the SUA or LUA but incurs a telephone expense or in its absence an equivalent form of communication, is eligible to receive a telephone deduction. The TUA allowance is unchanged and remains $20 (effective 10/1/14).
  • Dependent Care – A household shall be entitled, with respect to expenses for dependent care, to a dependent care deduction for the actual cost of payments necessary for the care of a dependent if the care enables a household member to accept or continue employment, or training or education that is preparatory for employment.
  • Medical Deduction – The portion of medical expenses, excluding special diets, in excess of the allowable amount of $35 per household per month (incurred by any household member who is elderly or disabled).

Exempt Income

  • In-Kind Benefits – Any gain or benefit that is not in the form of money (i.e., meals, clothing, housing provided by the employer, etc.)
  • Vendor Payments – Money paid to a third party for a household expense by a person or organization outside of the household.
  • Deferred Educational Loans
  • Grants and Scholarships
  • Cash donations from a charitable organization of not more than $300 in a calendar quarter.
  • Income received too infrequently/irregularly to be reasonably anticipated but not more than $30 in a quarter.

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Reporting Changes

CalFresh recipients must notify their local County Welfare Department about changes in their income or other circumstances. Such changes may affect their eligibility for benefits. There are two kinds of reporting: Change and Semi-Annual, which are described below:

Change Reporting

Change reporting households are those in which household members are seasonal and/or migrant farm workers, elderly, disabled or homeless.

  • These households are required to report within 10 days from the date of a change in writing, verbally or in person.
  • Changes required to be reported are:
    • the source and amount of gross income of more than $25; addition or loss of a household member; address changes and shelter costs; when cash on hand, stocks, bonds, money in a bank account or savings reach a total of $2,000 ($3,000 for elderly and disabled households); a change in child support payments made to a non-household member.

Semi-Annual Reporting

Semi-Annual Reporting (SAR) households must submit one periodic report form (SAR 7) once a year followed by a recertification form no later than six months later.

The SAR 7 asks the household to report income, medical and dependent care expenses, and any other change the household is expecting for the remainder of their certification period.

In-between reporting changes on the SAR 7, SAR households are required to report when their household income exceeds their Income Reporting Threshold (130% of the Federal Poverty Level).

Households may report, during the certification period, any change that could increase benefits, such as a job loss or increased shelter expenses.


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Resources

A resource is something the household can draw upon or sell for financial assistance.  While most households will not be subject to resource eligibility requirements, there are still instances when it may affect eligibility to expedited service or benefits.  For those households who are still required to meet eligibility requirements for resources, the resource limits and the type of resources which are considered are listed below.

Resource Limits

Resource limits are $2,250 for all households except those that have a member who has a disability or who is 60 years of age or older. These households can have up to $3,250 in resources. Any countable resource will be added to the household's resource limit when making an eligibility determination.

Types of Resources:

  • Liquid Resources – Includes all funds readily available to the household such as cash on hand, money in checking or savings accounts, savings certificates, trust deeds, notes receivable, stocks, or bonds, non-recurring lump sum payments [which includes retroactive payments, funds held in an individual retirement accounts (IRA) and funds held in accessible Keogh plans].
  • Non-Liquid Resources – Includes personal property, buildings, land, recreational properties, and any other property. The value of non-exempt resources shall be its equity value, which is the fair market value less encumbrances.
  • Excluded Resources – Resources which are excluded are the home and surrounding property, vehicles, household goods, personal effects, resources with an equity value of $1500 or less (excluding financial instruments), and resources with a cash value that is not accessible to the household (such as irrevocable trust funds, security deposits on rental property, etc.)

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Work Requirements

All able-bodied persons (ages 18-49) without dependents must work 20 hours per week (monthly average 80 hours) or participate 20 hours per week in an approved work activity or do workfare. If not, these persons receive only 3 months of CalFresh benefits in a 36-month period. There are some exceptions, so contact your local County Welfare Department  to find out if you are eligible.

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