How to qualify for California food stamps

How to qualify for California food stamps
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CalFresh – the California food stamp program – requires each applicant to meet several tests to qualify for benefits. You must meet citizenship, income and resource tests to qualify, as well as meet work activity requirements. The state sets most eligibility requirements, but each county issues CalFresh benefits individually. This means your county may allow slight differences for certain tests. All CalFresh applications must be processed by your local county office and you must provide proof of your income, citizenship and work hours.

Meet citizenship requirements. In most cases, you must be a U.S. citizen, or be a legal immigrant who has lived the U.S. for at least five years to qualify for California food stamps. Immigrant children under the age of 18 and any immigrant receiving disability benefits are exempt from the five-year rule, regardless of entry date. Temporary non-citizens do not qualify for food stamps in California.

Meet qualifying income limits. To receive California food stamps, your gross household income must be less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level for your household size. If your household includes an elderly or disabled family member, you may be eligible to use the 165 percent federal poverty level to meet the gross income test. As of July 2012, a family of three may qualify if its gross income is less than $2,008 per month, and an elderly or disabled household of two may qualify with a gross income of less than $1,226. If you meet the gross income limits, your net income will be calculated, which cannot exceed 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The CalFresh program allows deductions from income for housing, utilities, dependent care and medical allowances. Income qualification is one of the most variable aspects of program eligibility as households have different sizes and levels of income. If you’re not sure whether you meet this test, use the screening tool on the CalFresh website.

Meet the resource test. Your household may not have resources in excess of $2,000. Households with elderly or disabled members may have up to $3,000 in resources. Resources include bank account balances, retirement account balances, the value of stocks and bonds and equity in nonresidential property and land. The equity in your personal home, vehicles and household goods and furnishings are excluded from the resource count.

Meet work requirements. In most cases, adult CalFresh recipients who don’t have dependents must work or participate in a work-related activity for at least 20 hours per week. If you don’t meet this test but otherwise qualify, you can receive benefits for three months every three-year period. However, depending on your circumstances, this test may be waived. Waivers are dependent on the county where you apply for benefits, so check with your county office for details.

Apply for benefits. If you meet all the qualification tests, apply for California food stamps online through the e-Benefits website, or download a paper application from the CalFresh website and submit it to your local county office.


  • Educational grant and scholarship money is excluded from your income limit calculations.

    If you receive CalFresh benefits, you must re-certify your eligibility every three months. You must also provide two fingerprints and a photo image before your benefits can be issued.

    While receiving California benefits, you're required to report any changes that affect your income, household size, address, work activity and shelter costs within 10 days from the date the event occurs.