Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I apply for public assistance benefits?
A: Applications for public assistance programs are processed by your county social services/human services agency. You may request an application for public assistance benefits from your local county social services/human services agency by phone, in person, by fax or by mail. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.
It is possible to download and complete an application for public assistance from the California Department of Social Services website. However, you must return the application either in person or by mail to the appropriate county office. Certain counties in California are now accepting public assistance applications online. To see which counties accept public assistance applications online, please visit the BenefitsCal.com website.
Q: How do I check the status of my public assistance application/case?
A: The California Department of Social Services does not process public assistance applications or maintain case file information. If you would like to check the status of your application and/or case, please contact your county social services/human services agency for further assistance. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.
Q: How do I contact my county worker or reschedule my appointment?
A: If you would like to speak with your county worker and/or need assistance with scheduling or rescheduling an appointment with your county worker, you must contact your local county social services or human services agency. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.
Further, if you had an appointment with your worker and you need to reschedule, please use the website listed above for further assistance.
Q: When will I receive my public assistance benefits?
A: Under the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program, benefits are paid between the first and third calendar day of the month.
Under the CalFresh Program, benefits are available on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card based on the last digit of the individual’s county case number. For example, if a case number ends in the number “5,” the day the benefits are available on the EBT card is the 5th day of each month.
For further information regarding the status of your benefits, please contact your local county social services/human services agency. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.
Q: I am having trouble logging onto your website to apply for/check the status of my benefits.
A: Websites used to apply and/or check the status of public assistance benefits such as e-benefits or BenefitsCal.com are not administered or maintained by the California Department of Social Services. Each of these websites has specific instructions on topics such as creating an account, retrieving your password or difficulty logging in. If you continue to have difficulty with these sites, please contact your local county social services/human services agency for assistance. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.
Q: My Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card was lost or stolen. How do I get a new one?
A: If the EBT card is lost or stolen, it is the cardholder’s responsibility to call the EBT Customer Service Center at (877) 328-9677 to report the problem as soon as possible. A person’s account can only be used with a valid EBT card and Personal Identification Number (PIN). Any transaction conducted with a valid card and PIN is the client’s responsibility, even if the transaction was done without the client’s permission or knowledge. That is why it is very important to protect the secrecy of the PIN.
Once the matter is reported, the EBT card will be deactivated so the benefits cannot be used by anyone else.
You will also have to contact your county worker to have your EBT card replaced.
Q: Can I have someone else help me shop using my EBT account?
A: Ask your county worker about setting up an Authorized Representative (AR), who will have access to your EBT food benefit and/or cash aid benefit account. They will have a separate card with his or her own account number and PIN. The EBT system is able to track which card is used to access your account.
Q: Can I use my Electronic Benefit Transfer Card in another state?
A: The EBT card will work at any store or ATM that displays the Quest® symbol in California and the other 49 states in the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. If you do not see the Quest® symbol, look for a sign that displays EBT, SNAP or Food Stamps. If you are unsure, ask the store manager. Currently, California EBT cardholders cannot use their EBT cards in Puerto Rico.
Q: How can I report welfare fraud?
A: Each of California’s 58 counties has a Special Investigative Unit (SIU) which is responsible for investigating reports of suspected abuse of public assistance programs in their county. You may report your concerns by doing one of the following:
- You may contact the SIU in the County in which the alleged fraud occurred.
- If you prefer, you may call the California Department of Social Services Fraud Hotline at (800) 344-8477 and your information will be recorded and forwarded to the correct county.
- You may also contact the CDSS Fraud Hotline by email at: FraudHotline@dss.ca.gov .
Q: What kind of food can I purchase with my CalFresh benefits?
A: Households CAN use CalFresh benefits to buy:
- Foods for the household to eat, such as:
- Bread and cereals
- Fruit and vegetables
- Meat, fish and poultry; and
- Dairy products
- Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.
Households CANNOT use CalFresh benefits to buy:
- Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
- Any nonfood items, such as
- Pet foods;
- Soaps, paper products; and
- Household supplies
- Vitamins and medicines
- Food that will be eaten in the store
- Hot foods
When considering the eligibility of energy drinks and other branded products, the primary determinant is the type of product label chosen by the manufacturer to conform to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines:
- Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible foods
- Energy drinks that have a supplement facts label are classified by the FDA as supplements and are, therefore, not eligible
In some areas, restaurants can be authorized to accept CalFresh benefits from qualified homeless, elderly or disabled people in exchange for low-cost meals. CalFresh benefits cannot be exchanged for cash.
If you need further assistance, you may access the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) website.
Q: How long will it take for my application for CalFresh benefits to be approved?
A: The county social services/human services agencies shall provide eligible households that complete the initial application process an opportunity to participate as soon as possible, but not later than 30 calendar days following the date the application was filed as stated in the CalFresh Manual of Policies and Procedures, Division 63, Section 63-300 through 63-301.
However, in emergency situations a person/household may receive Expedited CalFresh benefits no later than the 3rd calendar day following the date the application is filed (Saturday and Sunday are considered 1 day).
If you would like to discuss the CalFresh Program in more detail with program staff and/or to find out how to apply for benefits, please contact your county office. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.
Q: Can bottle deposits (CRV) be paid with EBT food benefits?
A: EBT food benefits can cover the entire cost of items such as eligible drinks in returnable bottles, where the price includes a specific bottle deposit. This is true even if the deposit is not included in the shelf price. CRV is payable with EBT food benefits.
Q: How do I use my Medi-Cal benefits?
A: Questions pertaining to your Medi-Cal benefits such as how to locate a doctor, where to fill prescriptions and what is covered under your Medi-Cal benefits should be directed to your county social services/human services agency Medi-Cal eligibility worker or you may contact Medi-Cal directly at (916) 636-1980. Further information on the Medi-Cal program is available through the California Department of Health Care Services website.
Q: My Medi-Cal has been switched to a Medi-Cal Managed Care plan but I would like to go back to regular Medi-Cal. What can I do?
A: If you have been placed in a Medi-Cal Managed Care plan but would like to go back to regular Medi-Cal, you must complete and submit a Request for Medical Exemption from Plan Enrollment form to the following address:
Health Care Options
P.O. Box 989009
West Sacramento, CA 95798 Fax number: 916-364-0287
Q: How can I switch my Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan to a different Managed Care Plan?
A: If you are enrolled in a Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan and want to choose another health plan for any reason, you may leave the health plan and join a different health plan. You may call Health Care Options (HCO) at (800) 430-4263 or visit a HCO presentation site for assistance in making a health plan change. You may also complete and mail an Enrollment Choice Form to HCO at the address provided below. Additional enrollment information is available on the HCO Enrollment page.
California Department of Health Care Services
Health Care Options
West Sacramento, CA 95798
Q: How or where can I apply for Covered California?
A: Californians in need of health insurance can visit Covered California website or call (800) 300-1506 to enroll in coverage. If you need assistance in person, you may locate a Certified Enrollment Counselor, Certified Insurance Agent or contact your local county social services/human services agency at the website previously listed.
Q: I have recently been approved for Medi-Cal. How can I choose a doctor?
A: If you are in regular Medi-Cal, you must see providers who accept regular Medi-Cal. If you already have a primary care doctor you would like to see, you may ask if he/she accepts regular Medi-Cal or if they can assist you in locating a provider who accepts regular Medi-Cal. Unfortunately, there is no provider directory for recipients of regular Medi-Cal.
If you are in a Medi-Cal Managed Care Plan, you must see providers in your plan. You can get a provider directory for your plan by contacting your plan directly or call Health Care Options at (800) 430-4263.
Q: I have not received my Medi-Cal Benefits Identification Card (BIC) or my BIC card has been lost, stolen or damaged. What do I do?
A: If you have not received your BIC card, it has been lost, stolen, damaged or has the wrong information on it, you must contact your local county Medi-Cal office to request a new card.
Q: Am I eligible for Denti-Cal as an adult?
A: Due to a recent law change, some adult dental services will return to the Denti-Cal program beginning May 1, 2014. Benefits for children will not change.
- Exams and x-rays
- Fluoride treatments
- Anterior root canals (front teeth)
- Prefabricated crowns
- Full dentures
Other medically necessary dental services
For additional information you may contact Denti-Cal at (800) 322-6384.
Q: How do I request a state hearing?
A: There are several ways to request a state hearing:
- Complete the backside of the NOA and mail it to the county appeals office address listed on the back of the NOA.
- Complete the backside of the NOA and mail or fax the NOA to:
California Department of Social Services
State Hearings Division
744 P Street, MS 21-37
Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax number: (888) 281-0905
- Mail or fax a written request (letter) identifying your issue(s) to the address identified above.
- Call CDSS’ State Hearings Division at the toll-free telephone number at (800) 743-8525 or (800) 952-8349 (TDD).
The State Hearings Division notifies applicants/recipients of the date, time and location of the scheduled state hearing by mail.
Q: I requested a state hearing. Will my public assistance benefits stay the same?
A: If you are requesting a hearing because you received a Notice of Action (NOA) saying your benefits will be reduced or stopped, you may continue receiving your existing benefit amount until the hearing date if you filed your hearing request before the effective date of action shown on the NOA. This is called aid pending. Requests for aid pending are approved or denied by your county social service/human service’s appeals office.
Exception: If the county wants to reduce or stop your CalFresh benefits and you request a hearing before the effective date, you will only continue to receive the existing amount of your CalFresh benefits until the end of your current certification period. This may be sooner than your hearing date.
If you receive aid pending and the hearing decision is not in your favor, you will be asked to repay the amount of cash aid and CalFresh benefits you received as aid pending.
If you request a hearing after the effective date shown on the NOA, the county may reduce or stop your aid even though you requested a hearing.
Q: I had a state hearing and I do not agree with the decision. How can I request a rehearing?
A: If you are not happy with your state hearing decision and you want another Administrative Law Judge to review it, you may request a rehearing and/or seek judicial review within 30 days after you receive your decision.
In your rehearing request, state the date you received your decision and why a rehearing should be granted. If you want to present additional evidence, describe the additional evidence and explain why it was not introduced before and how it would change the decision. To request a rehearing, mail a written request (a letter) to:
California Department of Social Services
744 P Street, Mail Station 21-37
Sacramento, CA 95814
To ask for judicial review, you must file a petition in Superior Court (under Code of Civil Procedure §1094.5) within one year after receiving your decision. File your petition in the Superior Court of the county named in your decision. You may file this petition without asking for a rehearing. No filing fees are required. You may be entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees and costs if the Court issues a final decision in your favor.
If a rehearing was heard and you are unhappy with the decision from the rehearing, you may seek judicial review but you cannot request another rehearing.
Q: I agreed to sign a conditional withdrawal but 30 days have passed and the matter is not resolved. How can I reopen the hearing?
A: Claimants who have signed a conditional withdrawal may reopen their state hearing if they have not received information from their social/human services agency indicating the conditions have been acted upon.
If you would like to re-open your hearing, please have your hearing case number available and contact the State Hearings Division at toll free telephone number (800) 743-8525.
Q. The county is not complying with the judge’s decision from my state hearing. What can I do?
A: If the county is not complying with the judge’s decision within 30 days, you may contact the regional offices listed below.
NORTHERN REGIONAL OFFICE (NRO)
NORTHERN COSTAL OFFICE
Deborah Lobre & Michael LeLouis, Presiding Judges
744 P Street, MS 21-44, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Toll free line: (866) 538-2431
FAX: (833) 281-0902
LOS ANGELES REGIONAL OFFICE (LARO)
Onuaku Chambers & Gretchen Buechsenschuetz, Presiding Judges
744 P Street, MS 28-01, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Toll free line: (866) 708-0792
FAX: (213) 337-6244
SAN DIEGO REGIONAL OFFICE (SDRO)
Anthony Gurrola & Susan Hilles, Presiding Judges
744 P Street, MS 28-03, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Toll free line: (866) 388-4427
FAX: (760) 510-4998
AFFORABLE CARE ACT HEARINGS BUREAU
Charles DeCuir & Karin Bjork, Presiding Judges
744 P Street, MS 21-97, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Toll free line: (855) 795-0634
FAX: (833) 281-0905
CHILDREN & FAMILY RESOURCE APPEALS
Patrick Burke, Presiding Judge
744 P Street, MS 21-38, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Toll free line: (833) 984-1303
FAX: (833) 281-0904
SCOPE OF BENEFITS BUREAU
Christin Miller, Presiding Judge
744 P Street, MS 21-33, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Toll free line: (855) 266-1157
FAX: (833) 281-0903
IN HOME SUPPORTIVE SERVICES (IHSS) BUREAU
Vanessa Lee & Maria Palomares Presiding Judges
744 P Street, MS 28-01, Sacramento, CA 95814-5512
Phone: (866) 708-0792
FAX: (213) 337-6244
Q: How do I file a complaint against my county worker and/or a county agency?
A: The California Department of Social Services does not have the authority to review complaints involving county agencies and their employees. These are county personnel issues that fall solely under the jurisdiction of the Directors of the 58 individual county public social services or human services agencies. Please contact your county social services/human services agency’s complaint line or your county director’s office to file your complaint. You can locate the address and telephone number for your county social services/human services agency here.