COVID-19 and CalFresh

What the pandemic means for benefits.


Extra benefits

Normally, there is a minimum and maximum amount of CalFresh benefits you can get based on your household size. Your county CalFresh office determines exactly how much you'll get based on your income and expenses. But for March through November, everyone will get the maximum benefit for their household size. You will get your normal benefit deposit on the day you usually get benefits, and then a second benefit deposit the next month.

Information for people applying for CalFresh

I need food now. Where can I get it?

For immediate food assistance, find your local food bank. You can also call 2-1-1, a resource helpline for referrals for childcare, affordable housing or shelter, cash assistance, healthcare and more.

How quickly will I get benefits?

Your county has 30 days to approve or deny your case. Some people with very low income can get expedited services, and their cases should be processed in 3 days. Because of the pandemic, counties are receiving a higher volume of applications than normal. It may take longer than usual to hear back. If it’s been more than two weeks and you haven’t gotten any mail or phone calls from your county, or you want to contact your county office, you can find their phone number here.

I just lost my job - how does that affect my application for CalFresh?

You can definitely apply for CalFresh if you just lost your job. If your income recently stopped, your county will only count any final payments you got in the last 30 days to calculate how much CalFresh you will receive in the first month. If you still have any income, your ongoing benefits will be based only on that income, not income that has stopped. You should provide proof of any money you got in the last 30 days if you can.

It isn't required, but it can be helpful to provide any proof you have that your income has stopped. This could be a letter, or a screenshot of an email or text from your employer that explains that you are no longer working. If you can’t get proof, write a letter that explains that you aren’t working. Make sure to include the last date you worked, and sign and date it.

If I still have a job but don’t have hours and am not getting paid, what do I put for my income?

If your income has decreased or stopped, you can upload proof of income for the last 30 days through getcalfresh.org/docs. If your income went up and you aren’t sure if you need to report changes, you can call your county to get more information. You can find their contact information here.

What documents should I submit with my application?

The documents you need to submit depends on your situation. When you apply on GetCalFresh.org, you will be given a list of recommended documents to submit. These documents are usually required to get CalFresh:

  • A copy of your ID
  • Proof of any income
  • Proof of immigration status (for non-citizens)
  • Proof of student status (for college students)

These documents are optional but can increase your benefit amount:

  • Proof of housing expenses
  • Proof of child support that you pay
  • Proof of child/dependent care that you pay for
  • If you are 60+ or disabled, proof of medical expenses.

If you can’t get proof, the CalFresh office will generally accept a written statement explaining your situation - make sure it is signed and dated. Submitting all of your documents with the application can help you skip the interview (through August) and get approved more quickly.

What do I need to know about CalFresh and unemployment benefits?

You can get CalFresh and unemployment benefits at the same time, as long as the amount of money you get from unemployment isn't over the CalFresh income limits. You can start a CalFresh application and we'll help you figure out if you're over the limit. Getting CalFresh won't affect how much money you get from unemployment.

If you applied for unemployment but haven't gotten money from unemployment yet, you don't have to report it on your CalFresh application. If you get CalFresh right now and have started receiving unemployment or the amount you get has changed, we recommend reaching out to your county CalFresh office to let them know about your income changes. They will give you next steps based on your situation.

I heard that the county office is closed - what should I expect?

You don’t have to go in person to the CalFresh office to get benefits. After you apply online, all of your communication with the county can be over the phone or through the mail. You can even have your EBT card mailed to you.

Even though county offices are currently closed to the public, county workers are still working and the county call centers are still operating. If you need to call your county office, listen to the whole office closure message. You will be able to make selections from the automated system that will connect to a county worker. Because of high call volume, wait times might be longer than normal.

Information for people who already get CalFresh

Online purchasing:

Great news! You can use your EBT card to purchase groceries online at Amazon and Walmart. Visit Amazon or Walmart to learn more about how it works. Unfortunately, you can't use CalFresh to pay for delivery. California is working to expand access to more grocery stores ⁠— check back for updates.

Do I need to tell the county if I recently moved?

You don’t need to report a change of address if you have temporarily moved due to the pandemic. If you know you will not return to your old address, you can call your county to let them know you have moved. You can find their contact information here.

How do I report changes to my income?

If your income has decreased or stopped, you can upload proof of income for the last 30 days through getcalfresh.org/docs. Your county will give you more information about when you have to report increases in income. If your income went up and you aren't sure if you need to report changes, you can call your county to get more information.

Do I need to submit renewal reports such as the SAR 7?

Yes. Semi-Annual Reports (SAR 7s) for CalFresh were not required in March, April, and May because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, starting in June, regular SAR 7 reporting is returning to normal. Your SAR 7 would be due in June if you applied for CalFresh in January (unless everyone in your household is 60+ or disabled). If you have questions about when your SAR 7 is due, call your county office.