As of June 1, 2019, 700,000 Californians are now eligible for CalFresh (nationally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for the first time. For the last 45 years, individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) lacked the opportunity to apply for CalFresh benefits, but a new state law has ended that prohibition. The majority people receiving SSI are adults 60 and older or people living with disabilities. Extending eligibility to these seniors and people with disabilities is the largest anti-hunger initiative in recent California history.
Feeding San Diego is working with partner organizations throughout the county to get the word out to SSI recipients that may now be eligible for CalFresh benefits with no loss of SSI income.
“To people living so close to the edge, it’s really going to make a difference in their health and well-being,” shared Kim McCoy Wade, Chief of the CalFresh and Nutrition Branch at the state Department of Social Services.
Feeding America’s recent annual report series on The State of Senior Hunger states that 5.5 million individuals, or 1 in 12 seniors, were food insecure in 2017. Unfortunately, the number of food-insecure seniors has not improved since 2014. In fact, the current number of seniors who are food insecure is more than double what it was in 2001. Feeding America’s findings also reveal that in 2017, an estimated 11.3%, or 4.8 million, older adults age 50-59 were vulnerable to malnutrition. Moreover, older adults and seniors face a harsh and unfair choice every month: purchasing food versus paying rent, healthcare and other utilities.
According to state officials and advocates working with senior citizens, the expansion of CalFresh benefits will become a vital safety net for California’s fastest growing population. The new CalFresh benefits are likely to average up to $110 per month, an amount that could substantially improve the lives of older adults on SSI.
Formerly known as food stamps, CalFresh is an assistance program that provides monthly benefits to help low-income households purchase enough food to meet their daily needs. CalFresh can be used to buy food from any participating supermarket and/or farmer’s market. It works the same way as any bank-issued debit card.
The following table will help in understanding the Income Limits and Possible Benefits:
|Number of eligible household members||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8*|
|Monthly gross income limits||$2024||$2744||$3464||$4184||$4904||$5624||$6344||$7064|
|The household could receive up to this amount in benefits**||$192||$353||$505||$642||$762||$914||$1011||$1155|
*Each additional member + $468 to gross income limit
**Actual amount depends on the household’s specific case situation (Amounts Effective October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019)
With the new rule in place, most SSI/SSP recipients can apply for CalFresh, either on the phone, online or in person. According to the California Department of Social Services, receiving CalFresh will not reduce or eliminate the existing SSI/SSP benefits for applicants.
How to Apply
There are multiple ways for SSI recipients to sign up for CalFresh benefits:
- Feeding San Diego: Call 858.863.6635, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the CalFresh team will pre-screen you over the phone and get you started on the application process.
- CalFresh: Go to GetCalFresh.org, or call 877-847-3663 for help available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Cantonese, and Russian, or visit a local CalFresh office. Locations can be found on an interactive map at CalFreshFood.org.
- 2-1-1 San Diego: Simply dial 2-1-1
The expansion will significantly help San Diego County’s most vulnerable populations to put fresh food on the table.