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Your CalFresh Benefits Will Drop in April. Here's What You Can Do

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A young Asian man with short dark hair and round glasses carries a 1-year-old girl, with tiny black pigtails, in a harness on his chest, with the girl facing out. They stand in the light of a vegetable display in a supermarket. The man holds a plastic container full of green vegetables, maybe cucumbers, smiling as his daughter reaches out to touch the box.
In April, millions of households across California will see their CalFresh food stamp benefits drop due to a change in federal funding. Here's what to do if you're affected. (d3sign/Getty Images)

This story was updated at 1:40 p.m., Thursday, April 6.

Over 3 million households around California use CalFresh, the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the food benefits program also known as “food stamps.” According to the state’s most recent data from January 2023, that’s more than 5 million people using these funds to ensure they have access to food.

During the pandemic, folks using CalFresh have been receiving extra funds, called “emergency allotments,” in recognition of the extreme challenges the COVID pandemic has been causing to people’s lives and jobs. This increase was at least $95 in CalFresh benefits per month.

But starting in April, CalFresh users will notice a big drop in their food benefits. That’s because those extra CalFresh pandemic funds were discontinued on Feb. 28, making March the last month the emergency allotments will appear in your CalFresh benefits.

Keep reading to find out why this is happening, or jump straight to where you can find additional food support and benefits if you’re going to be affected by this drop in CalFresh.

Are you a student on CalFresh? Read more about how your eligibility for food benefits is also changing starting June 10.

Why is this drop in my CalFresh benefits happening?

The sharp reduction in CalFresh funds is due to federal funding changes for SNAP programs across the whole United States — not because of a change in California law.

In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) — the federal agency that oversees SNAP programs nationwide — gave states extra funding so they could increase food benefits for people using SNAP. The increase allowed California to up the amount CalFresh users received every month, either to the maximum amount allowed or by adding a $95 increase for the people already getting the maximum.

But now, a 2023 Congressional spending bill — the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 — has ended the pandemic-era release of these extra funds to households across the U.S.

So how much money in CalFresh benefits will I now lose?

Starting in April, your CalFresh benefits will go back down to their pre-pandemic levels, according to what you’re currently eligible for.

These emergency allotments were $95 minimum. So the end of these extra funds means that a person using CalFresh at the very least is losing $95 each month in their food benefits.

Both your regular CalFresh benefits and how much emergency allotment you’ve been receiving are calculated based on your personal circumstances (PDF), which includes how many people are in your household, what your income is and what tax deductions you claim. The bigger your household and the lower your income, the larger your CalFresh benefits will be.

You can go here to see the income thresholds and maximum CalFresh monthly allotments (PDF) that are currently in effect through Sept. 30, 2023. But remember that the dollar amounts for regular CalFresh allotments shown in the table below represent the absolute maximum amount available to a household based on their circumstances, not the average. The minimum CalFresh allotment available is $23.

A table that shows Maximum Monthly allotments for CalFresh users
A table that shows maximum monthly allotments for CalFresh users. (California Department of Social Services)

How will this affect Californians using CalFresh?

CalMatters has reported that since November, the extra emergency allotment boosts have amounted to more than $500 million a month in additional food stamps for lower-income Californians, according to USDA data. Becky Silva, government relations director at the California Association of Food Banks, told CalMatters that a single-person household could see their food aid drop from $281 a month to as low as $23 in April.

In San Francisco alone, officials at the city’s Human Services Agency (SFHSA) estimated in a March 1 press conference that around 70,000 households receiving CalFresh — more than 96,000 individuals — will lose an average of $160 per month, totaling a loss of $11.5 million citywide. The SFHSA estimates that older people, people with disabilities and families with multiple children will be most affected by these CalFresh changes.

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS), the agency that administers CalFresh, says that it’s been using “many methods of communication” to alert CalFresh users about the imminent drop in funds, including texts, social media, automated phone calls and a January mailer sent to all people using CalFresh. This messaging, the agency says, has been translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Armenian and Cantonese.

In its official flyer warning of the CalFresh funding changes (PDF), CDSS advises people being hit by this sudden drop in food benefits in April that they can “get free food from your local food bank” as an “additional food resource.” The agency notes that both the state and the USDA also have made more funding available to food banks recently.

However, many advocates are deeply concerned about the impact on hunger in California. Particularly concerned are food bank representatives, whose organizations have already seen huge demand during the pandemic, and are themselves being squeezed by the food inflation that’s affecting the people that food banks serve.

“There’s no way to overstate how devastating this is going to be,” Silva from the California Association of Food Banks told CalMatters. “Families are going to see a dramatic and sudden drop in their food benefits at a time when food price inflation and the cost of living in California especially is through the roof.”

Mike Altfest, Alameda County Community Food Bank’s director of community engagement, says that the loss in Alameda County alone will amount to more than 3 million meals in the county per month. “Our food bank can’t make up 3.1 million meals,” Altfest said. “It’s physically impossible.”

“We’re going to see a huge jump in demand,” he said. “And I think food banks across the country are going to struggle to make this up.”

Altfest says that many food banks across the state are joining forces with lawmakers and “working on a number of bills and proposals that we’ve been lobbying for.” These measures not only advocate for increased state funding for food banks, but also for the state to augment federal SNAP benefits.

Where can I find additional money and support if my CalFresh benefits are dropping?

First, make sure you’re getting all the CalFresh benefits you’re entitled to

If your income has gone down, or stopped because you’ve lost your job or your expenses have risen, you may be eligible for more CalFresh benefits. (See the income thresholds and maximum CalFresh monthly allotments [PDF] that are currently in effect through Sept. 30, 2023.)

If that’s your situation, you should contact your local social services office. Find your local social services office.

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Call 211

CalFresh officials say that if you are in “immediate need of food assistance,” you can dial 211 and speak with someone about food services that are available in your area.

This hotline is open 24 hours a day, but they warn that “not all areas provide 211 phone support.”

Alternatively, the CalFresh Info Line can be reached at (877) 847-3663. The California Department of Social Services Helpline is (888) 445-1955, which CalFresh says can also offer information and assistance.

Use your county’s food access programs

These are food assistance options that are separate from food banks, although sometimes they work together. Your county may provide locations where you can pick up free food, or offer other ways of getting free or low-cost meals that include delivery.

Food assistance options in the city and county of San Francisco:

Food assistance options in Contra Costa County:

  • A food assistance program that provides one member of lower-income households in the county a box of food every month
  • The Community Produce Program that offers one member of each household one or two bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, twice a month (own bag is required)

Contra Costa County residents can call (855) 309-FOOD (3663) for more information.

Food assistance options in Alameda County:

Food assistance options in Marin County:

Food assistance options in San Mateo County:

Food assistance options in Napa County:

Food assistance options in Solano County:

Food assistance options in Sonoma County:

Food assistance options in Santa Clara County:

Get free produce at a farmers market that’s participating in California’s Fruit and Vegetable EBT pilot 

The state’s Fruit and Vegetable EBT pilot provides CalFresh participants with up to $60 per month in rebates when they use their EBT card to pay for California-grown produce at a limited number of farmers markets and grocery stores statewide.

How it works: If you have funds on your EBT card and use them to pay for eligible produce at a participating location, you’ll instantly get a rebate for the cost of that produce — effectively making it free at the point of sale.

More stores will be participating in this pilot program in 2023. But right now, you can get up to $60 worth of California-grown produce with your EBT card at the following farmers markets and stores in the wider Bay Area:

Napa Farmers Market

  • 110 West Street, Napa, CA 94559 (already in effect at the Saturday market; starts April 4 at the Tuesday market)

Grand Lake Farmers Market

  • 746 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610 (starting April 8)

Country Club Plaza Farmers Market

  • 2405 Butano Drive, Sacramento, CA 95828

See the full list of stores and farmers markets that are already participating in the Fruit and Vegetables EBT pilot, as well as the Bay Area locations that will start participating in April 2023 (dates TBD).

Apply for WIC

The Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC) provides food assistance to lower-income families who have young children or are expecting a new child. Like CalFresh, it’s federally funded, and you can receive WIC benefits on top of your CalFresh benefits.

The program is income-based, and is available to pregnant people, plus new parents and grandparents of young children. See whether you’re eligible for WIC and apply online.

Use Market Match to double your CalFresh or WIC dollars at a farmers market

Market Match is a statewide program that enables you to double your CalFresh or Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC) funds at certain farmers markets and farm-direct locations near you.

How it works: Use the Market Match map to find a participating farmers market or other farm-direct location near you, and when you arrive during operating hours, go to that market’s information booth with your EBT card and ask for Market Match. Your EBT card will be swiped for a dollar amount of your choice, and in return you’ll receive tokens for double that dollar amount to spend at the market. (Another way of looking at it: Market Match effectively gives you 50% off produce you buy at participating farmers markets.)

Some markets will have a limit on the amount of CalFresh or WIC dollars you can have matched (often $10); others have no limit. Consider watching Market Match’s short “how it works” video before using Market Match for the first time at a farmers market.

Find a food bank or community pantry near you

You can find a local foodbank through the California Association of Food Banks, or keep scrolling for a list of food banks and community kitchens, pantries and more near you:

San Francisco:

East Bay:

North Bay:

South Bay:

Other, smaller food banks and community fridges may be operating in your area.

Tell us: What else do you need information about?

At KQED News, we know that it can sometimes be hard to track down the answers to navigate life in the Bay Area in 2023. We’ve published clear, helpful explainers and guides about issues like COVID, how to cope with intense winter weather and how to exercise your right to protest safely.

So tell us: What do you need to know more about? Tell us, and you could see your question answered online or on social media. What you submit will make our reporting stronger, and help us decide what to cover here on our site, and on KQED Public Radio, too.

This story contains additional reporting by KQED’s Sara Hossaini, and has been updated to include the latest numbers from the California Department of Social Services on how many people statewide use CalFresh.

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