CalFresh Food Assistance Eligibility

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CalFresh Food Assistance Eligibility – Who can get the CalFresh Benefits in California?

CalFresh Food Assistance Eligibility rules and benefit amounts in California for food stamps, like in other States, are based on the household resources, income, household size, and are largely determined by regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service.

The federal law allows States some flexibility when implementing SNAP on a State level. For example, CDSS can adapt some of the food assistance program rules in order to meet the needs of the eligible, low‐income local populations.

CalFresh Program is a food assistance program, primarily designed for individuals and families in need of help, with limited income resources, who compose a household, and purchase and prepare their meals together for home consumption. In general, to qualify for CalFresh Food Assistance Benefits, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • California Resident – must be U.S. Citizen or qualified non-citizen status;
  • Work Requirement – cooperation with local California County Welfare Department regarding required employment, training, community service or volunteer activities, (unless exempted, each household must participate in such activities);
  • Low-Income Test –  Income limits eligibility depends on household size and composition. Households with no elderly or disabled individuals must meet both gross and net income limits. Households with elderly or disabled individuals must meet only the net income limits. Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits, etc. Household net income is computed by deducting certain allowed expenses from gross income. Some of the allowed deductions are utility and telephone expenses, the cost of dependent care, the portion of medical expenses and a standard deduction of 20%. Local County Welfare Department can help with the current list of all allowable deductions. Check the table with CalFresh income limits per household size below.

Some California residents may be automatically or so-called broad-based categorically eligible for Food Assistance if they already participate in other means-tested assistance programs. In the State of California Broad-based Categorical Eligibility is known as Modified Categorical Eligibility (MCE).

Getting any benefits including pamphlets from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), funded by federal grants, or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for CalFresh categorically eligible, thus bypassing the income eligibility and any asset eligibility rules.

Under the federal SNAP regulations, States can assign a gross income limit of 200% of the federal poverty line (FPL) or less in order to use any TANF-funded benefit that can make food stamps applicants eligible.

In California, to qualify automatically under Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, the household must have been issued or have online access to the TANF-funded “Family Planning – PUB 275” brochure and meet all other conditions of eligibility for CalFresh Program. No asset test is required, and the gross income limit for households without an elderly or disabled member is 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. Call 1-877-847-FOOD (3663) with any question on CalFresh Eligibility.

CalFresh Quick Eligibility Check

Use this Pre-Screening Tool to find out if you might be eligible to get CalFresh Assistance Benefits (Food Stamps). The screening allows interested in getting California food stamps to provide some basic information and determine if they are potentially eligible for benefits.  Although you will be notified immediately if you qualify after completing the questionnaire, you still have to make an application at your California local County Welfare Department. Even if you are unsure whether you qualify you still may be eligible for CalFresh benefits and should still apply.

CalFresh |  Apply | Approval | Benefits

To figure out, before applying,  if you'd qualify for food stamps benefits in your state you have to consider the following:

  1. Your Household size: How many people you live and buy food with? Count:
    • anyone you live with and buy and make food with
    • children under 22 years old and,
    • elderly 60+ and disabled that you make food for.
  2. Your Income: How much money does your household make? This includes both:
    • earned income - the money you make from jobs and
    • unearned income  - cash assistance, Social Security, unemployment insurance, child support, etc.

Who counts as a member of the household for SNAP eligibility?

In general, anyone who lives with you and you buy food with counts a member of your household.

Your children under 22 of age count as household members, even if they buy and make their own food.

But your tenant, for example, or your adult children that are over 22 of age do not count. They are not counted in the household number for the purpose of food stamp benefits qualification.

The elderly age of 60+ and disabled people count as household members if you buy and make food for them, or you buy and make food together. If they live with you, but they buy and make food separately, they do not count as household members.

See the updated table below for this fiscal year's income limits and monthly benefits (allotments).

What is the gross and net income limit that qualifies you for food stamps?

SNAP Max Income for Food Stamps
Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020 

Gross Monthly
Income Limits
(130% of poverty)
Net Monthly
Income Limits
(100% of poverty)
Max Food
Benefit Monthly
Each additional member+$479+$369+$146

 Source:  USDA, SNAP Income Eligibility Standards


Approx. of the total California population received Food Stamp Benefits in 2018

Recipients in June, 2018 of Food Stamps (SNAP) Benefits in California

Recipients in June, 2017 of Food Stamp (SNAP) Benefits in California

California Food Assistance Benefits

Find more on what kind of food you can buy using your California Food Assistance benefits…

Food Assistance Program | Eligibility | Apply | Approval | Benefits