How To Apply For California SNAP Benefits

View the information below if you are interested in applying for a EBT card in California. It is important that you have all the documentation and information needed so the application process is not delayed. If you still have questions or issues about applying for food stamps, known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), then you can call the California SNAP hotline at 877-847-3663. The department that handles this program is called the California Department of Social Services.

CalFresh is for low-income people who meet federal income eligibility rules and want to add to their budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table.

How to apply for California food stamps

You can quickly and easily apply online by visiting To find out how to apply for benefits in your county, please call the toll free number 877-847-3663. To download a CalFresh application, English version - Spanish version. If you have a disability or need help with this application, let the County Welfare Department know and someone will help you. Once you downloaded the CalFresh application you need to fill out the whole application form, if you can. You must at least give the county your name, address, and signature to begin the application process.

Then you must give the application to the County Welfare Department in person, by mail, by fax, or online. The day the county receives your signed application starts the time to give you an answer on whether you can get benefits. If you are in an institution, this time starts from the day you leave.

Is an interview required?

An interview is required before certifying your household to get CalFresh benefits. The interview can occur in the county office or by telephone. The interview may be held with the head of household, spouse, the authorized representative or any other responsible household family member. An interview is required annually. You will be required to being the following documents to your interview:

  • Proof of identity (driver's license, etc.), alien status
  • Social Security Numbers for all household members
  • If employed, proof of income (wage stubs, earning statements, etc.) for the past 30 days
  • Bank statements for checking/savings accounts, certificates of deposit, credit union accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, etc
  • Proof of shelter costs

How long will it take to process my application?

It may take up to 30 days to process your application. You may be able to get benefits within 3 calendar days, if you meet one of the Expedited Service criteria:

  • Your household’s monthly gross income (income before deductions) is less than $150 and your cash on hand or in checking or savings accounts is $100 or less; or
  • Your household’s housing costs (rent/mortgage and utilities) are more than your monthly gross income and cash on hand or in checking or savings accounts; or
  • You are a migrant or seasonal farmworker household with less than $100 in checking or savings and 1) your income stopped, or 2) your income has started but you do not expect to get more than $25 in the next 10 days.

The County will send you a letter to let you know if your household is approved or denied CalFresh benefits.

CalFresh eligibility requirements

For households to receive CalFresh benefits they must provide certain information in the following areas.

Citizenship/Immigration Status
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 US temporarily, such as students or tourists are not eligible just as undocumented individuals are not eligible.

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). 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. $160 for households of 1–3 persons, $170 for 4 persons, $199 for 5 persons, and $228 for 6 or more persons
  • 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 $535
  • 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 $143 and remains unchanged
  • Standard Utility Allowance: Allowed for a household that incurs utility costs, which are separate and apart from the household's rent/mortgage payment. The current allowance is $397
  • Limited Utility Allowance: 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 $126
  • Telephone Utility Allowance: 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 decreased to $18
  • 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
Exempt Income
  • In-Kind Benefits: Any gain or benefit that is not in the form of money
  • Vendor Payments: Money paid to a 3rd 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.

Gross Monthly Income Eligibility

Household Size Gross Income
1 $2,010
2 $2,708
3 $3,404
4 $4,100
5 $4,798
6 $5,494
7 $6,190
8 $6,888
Each Additional Member +$698

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 $2,250. If they also have a member who has a disability or who is 60 years of age or older, the resource limit is $3,250. Any countable resource will be added to the household's resource limit when making an eligibility determination.

What types of resources are counted?
Households hat 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.

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, and resources with a cash value that is not accessible to the household.

Work Requirements
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.