As the largest food assistance program in California, CalFresh safeguards millions of residents against food insecurity and hunger. It is the state of California’s equivalent of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is administered through a county-based structure. Many low-income individuals and households get monthly food benefits through the program, which they can use to meet their nutritional needs by purchasing healthy foods and meals.
It is vital that all disadvantaged people and families receive the CalFresh benefits to which they are entitled. As a result, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and other state organizations are actively working to educate and support residents with their CalFresh applications. In the same vein, we will address all your queries regarding the CalFresh application form in this article, including where to get it, how to submit it, what is the application approval process, and more.
Getting a CalFresh Application Form
The first step in the CalFresh application process is filling out an application form. You can apply for CalFresh in person, online, or by mailing an application to your county office. In California, there are several ways to obtain or submit a CalFresh application form, including:
- Calling the CalFresh hotline: You can contact the state-wide CalFresh helpline by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-847-3663. A line operator takes application requests during business hours throughout the week. Applicants can also enter their zip codes to get more information about the CalFresh application procedure in their county. The hotline is currently available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian.
- Contacting or visiting your county office: You can get a CalFresh application form by phone, mail, fax, or in-person by calling or visiting your local county office directly. The CalFresh County Office Locator can help you find the office address, contact information, working hours, website, and directions for the county office in your area.
- Download an online application form: You can visit the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) website to download a CalFresh application form online. There is a standard application form for programs like CalFresh, cash aid, Medi-Cal, or health care programs. You can also contact your county office if you need help with the application or require a translation service. You can submit the completed form and the required documentation by mail, fax, or in-person to your county office. Download a CalFresh application form here.
- Applying online using an online portal: You can submit your CalFresh application through State of California web portals, such as BenefitsCal or GetCalFresh. During the process, you will have to complete an online application form and provide the necessary documents. You can submit your documentation within 30 days after completing your application.
Filling Out the CalFresh Application
You can utilize any of the above methods to obtain an application form. Next, you must carefully fill out your application by following the instructions below:
- If you can, fill out the complete CalFresh application form. However, you are not obligated to completely fill out the application form before submitting it. To start the application process, you must, at the very least, provide your name, address, and signature.
- If you have a disability, your county will accommodate your needs as deemed necessary.
- You must carefully read your rights and responsibilities before signing the application form.
- To verify your eligibility, you will need to provide documents of proof for your income, expenditure, and other circumstances.
- The county office must assist the household in completing the application process. Some counties even partner with community-based organizations to help applicants with the paperwork. You can ask your county for community contacts if you need such help.
- You must have an interview with a county caseworker to discuss your application. Most interviews are conducted over the phone, but they can also be conducted in person, at the County office, or at another location agreed upon by the caseworker.
- If you did not fill out the application completely, you can do so during the interview.
- The day the county office receives your signed application, the period to determine whether you qualify for CalFresh benefits begins.
Proof Needed to Receive CalFresh Benefits
You will need to submit various documents as proof along with your CalFresh application. They are fundamental for evaluating your CalFresh eligibility and the number of benefits you may receive. It is mandatory for you to submit these proofs within 30 days of submitting your application. Your interviewer may even allow you to bring them along. To receive CalFresh benefits, you must submit the following documents:
- Identity proof such as Driver’s License or Passport
- Proof of residence such as a lease contract or a valid bill with your current address
- Recent bank statements showing how much money each household member has in their accounts
- Record of earned income of each household member for the last 30 days, such as a recent pay stub or work statement from an employer. For the self-employed, a record of income along with expense or tax records.
- Records of unearned income, such as unemployment benefits, Social Security, SSI, Veteran’s benefits, child support, school grants or loans, rental income, etc
- Lawful immigration status for non-citizens, such as an Alien Registration Card or Visa, and any non-citizens with immigration status due to domestic abuse, criminal prosecution, or trafficking may not require this evidence. Moreover, they might not need a Social Security number.
You must report any changes in the case of the above documents. If you fail to report any necessary changes, your case will be closed, or your CalFresh benefits could be reduced or halted. You can also report changes you are not obligated to if they can boost your CalFresh benefits.
Time Frame of Application Approval
After submitting your application, the county office generally takes up to 30 days to decide whether you will get CalFresh benefits. You will be interviewed by a county caseworker within the next 30 days. The caseworker will go over the application with you and address all your questions during the interview. You might need to submit any relevant documentation that you will have ten days to turn in.
If a household qualifies for the CalFresh Expedited Service, the county office may provide CalFresh benefits in three days. This service is for very low-income households and migrant or seasonal farmworkers.
A household may be eligible for the Expedited Service if it meets any one of the following criteria:
- Has a monthly income of $150 or less and liquid resources of $100 or less (cash, savings, or checking);
- Has housing costs that exceed its monthly income and liquid resources combined;
- It comprises migrant or seasonal farm workers with liquid assets of $100 or less.
Receiving CalFresh Benefits
All CalFresh recipients receive an EBT card, also known as an Electronic Benefits Transfer Card, which is a magnetic stripe card loaded with their CalFresh benefits.
Your county office will send you an EBT card once your CalFresh eligibility is verified. The card generally arrives in the mail within five to ten business days. For security reasons, the card PIN (Personal Identification Number) is enclosed in a separate envelope, which arrives later. However, your EBT card will not receive any CalFresh benefits until your application is approved. As a result, you cannot use the EBT card right away.
You will get your CalFresh benefits once your application is approved. The application approval can take up to 30 calendar days. The benefits are deposited to your EBT card according to the final digit of your county case number. For instance, If your case number ends in ‘3’, your EBT card will get benefits on the third of each month.
An EBT card works exactly like a commercial ATM or debit card. You can use it to buy almost all foods, along with seeds and plants, to grow your own food from participating grocery stores and farmers’ markets. You can use the California EBT Locator to find nearby locations that accept EBT cards.