Eligibility and Issuance Requirements
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 .
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 .
CalFresh households, except those containing an aged (60 or older) 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 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)[except for households who are sanctioned, households with certain convicted drug felons (until April 1, 2015) or households who have been convicted of an Intentional Program Violation]. 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. $177 for households of 1–3 persons, $184 for 4 persons, $215 for 5 persons, and $246 for 6 or more persons (effective 10/1/18).
- 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 $597 (effective 10/1/21).
- 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 $159.73 (effective 10/1/21).
- 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 $487 (effective 10/1/21).
- 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 $144 (effective 10/1/21).
- 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 remains at $19 (effective 10/1/21).
- 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).
- 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.
200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
Most CalFresh households are subject to a gross income determination test. Gross Income is all non-excludable income from any source including all earned income and all unearned income. The maximum gross allowed is 200% of the Federal poverty level (FPL). Below is a chart of gross monthly income for 200% of the Federal poverty level by household size effective 10/1/2022.
Gross Monthly Income Eligibility
Standards for Modified Categorical
Eligibility (MCE)/Broad-Based Categorical
Eligibility (BBCE) (200% of Poverty Level)
(Effective October 1, 2022 – September 30, 2023)
Household Size Gross Income
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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 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 (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 (200% of the Federal Poverty Level in most cases).
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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A resource is something the household can draw upon or sell for financial assistance. Most households are not subject to the resource limit. The household types that are still required to meet eligibility requirements for resources, resource limits for those households, and the type of resources which are considered are listed below.
Which households are subject to the Resource Limit?
Resources are counted only for those households that :
- Contain a member who has been disqualified from participating in CalFresh because of an Intentional Program Violation,
- Have a head of household does not comply with work requirements,
- Have any member of the household has been convicted of certain categories of drug felonies
What is the resource limit for those households?
Households that fit one of the three descriptions above are subject to a resource limit of $2,500. If they also have a member who has a disability or who is 60 years of age or older, the resource limit is $3,750. Any countable resource will be added to the household's resource limit when making an eligibility determination.
What types of resources are counted?
Households that fit the description in section 1 above will need to report the following 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 not counted 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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If you only get CalFresh, there are some work rules you may need to meet. You may need to take part in certain employment and training activities such as searching for work, performing community service, or going to school or training. Your county will tell you if you need to participate in any of these activities or if you are excused. You may be given the chance to volunteer to participate in order to help you prepare to find work or go to school. There are some exceptions, so contact your local County Welfare Department to find out if you are eligible.
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Work Rule for Able-Bodied Adults Not Receiving Cash Aid
If you only receive CalFresh and you don’t have minor children, there is another work rule which you also may need to meet. You do not have to meet this work rule if it is waived in your county. At this time this work rule is waived in all counties until at least June 30, 2023, and you do not need to meet it. You also are excused from it if you are under 18, over age 49, pregnant, living in a CalFresh household with a minor child, and for other reasons your county can explain. Your county worker will tell you if you have to meet this work rule. There are some exceptions, so contact your local County Welfare Department to find out if you are eligible.
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Transitional CalFresh Benefits
Transitional benefits may be provided to a CalFresh household terminating participation in the CalWORKs Program without the need to re-establish CalFresh eligibility. If otherwise eligible, the longest time transitional benefits can be received is up to 5 months after leaving CalWORKs. If the CalWORKs case did not close and remains open or the CalWORKs case closed due to an ineligible cause or reason, then the household is ineligible for transitional benefits.
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