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Food Stamps FAQs

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How do I apply for food stamps?
How long should it take to process my application?
What is Food Stamps Expedited Service?
What is the County doing to reduce wait times and long lines in Family Resource Centers?
Are food stamp applicants subject to automatic home visits from fraud investigators?
Why do food stamp applicants have to be photographed and fingerprinted?
What can I buy with food stamps?
Can I get food stamps just for myself if I live with my family or with others?
Will I have to get a Social Security number to get food stamps?
Can a homeless person get food stamps?
Can I get food stamps if I'm not working?
How many assets can we have for food stamps?
How much income can we have to qualify for food stamps?
What are the Food Stamp Program allowable deductions?
Can I get food stamps if I am not a United States citizen?
Will the County report my immigration status to the immigration authorities?
Will I have problems with immigration when applying for a green card or citizenship if I apply for food stamps for my children?
Can my children get food stamps even if I don’t have immigration documents?
Am I eligible for food stamps if I have a drug-related felony conviction on my record?
Can I get food stamps if I receive SSI/SSP benefits?
Can I get food stamps if I am a college student?
How do I contact ACCESS?
If I am eligible for General Relief, am I also eligible for food stamps?
What is San Diego County doing to increase enrollment in the Food Stamp Program?

How do I apply for food stamps?

Click on the link to the ACCESS customer service center for instructions and application forms.

 

 

How long should it take to process my application?

All food stamp applications must be processed as soon as possible but no later than 30 calendar days following the date the application was filed.  The County must notify the applicant if eligible or not, no later than 30 calendar days from the date of application.

If you qualify, you may be eligible to Food Stamps Expedited Service and get your food stamps in three days (See FAQ “What is Food Stamps Expedited Service?”).

To improve access and provide superior customer service with fewer office visits and same day interviews, the Family Resource Centers (FRC) are transitioning from individual staff caseloads to a Task Based Model, including the implementation of a Customer Service Center (ACCESS 1-866-262-9881).  This means tasks such as processing applications and re-certifying eligibility are completed by a larger group of staff while ACCESS assists with individual inquiries/status, case changes, and other activities allowing FRC staff to focus on processing applications. To help accomplish this, staffs were cross-trained to administer more than one program.  When fully implemented by December 2009, applications will be accepted and processed at any FRC.

 

 

What is Food Stamps Expedited Service?

Food Stamps Expedited Service means you can get your food stamps in three days

You are eligible to Food Stamps Expedited Service if:

  • Your household has less than $150.00 in monthly gross income and does not have assets (resources) over $100.00; or
  • Your household’s total monthly income and resources are less than the monthly rent or mortgage, and utilities; or
  • You are a migrant or seasonal farm worker and you do not have assets (resources) over $100.00.

 

 

What is the County doing to reduce wait times and long lines in Family Resource Centers?

To improve access and provide superior customer service with fewer office visits and same day interviews, the Family Resource Centers (FRC) are transitioning from individual staff assignments/caseloads to a Task Based Model, including the implementation of a Customer Service Center (ACCESS 1-866-262-9881). This means tasks such as processing applications and re-certifying eligibility are completed by a larger group of staff while ACCESS assists with individual inquiries/status, case changes, and other activities allowing FRC staff to focus on processing applications. To help accomplish this, staff were cross-trained to administer more than one program. When fully implemented by December 2009, applications may be accepted and processed at any FRC.

In addition, food stamp regulations allow phone interviews rather than face-to-face interviews at the initial application for elderly or disabled applicants and if there is a hardship such as illness, lack of transportation, or work hours that prevent a face-to-face interview.

For families currently receiving food stamps and going through the re-certification process, a phone interview can also be completed in lieu of a face-to-face interview for most households.

 

 

Are food stamp applicants subject to automatic home visits from fraud investigators?

Food stamp only applicants are not subject to mandatory home visits by fraud investigators. Only CalWORKs applicants, who have not received benefits within the last 12 months, are subject to a home visit by a fraud investigator under the Project 100% program for the purpose of confirming eligibility for CalWORKs benefits.

Although the majority of new CalWORKs applicants also apply for food stamps, the Project 100% home visit is not intended to verify information relevant to the food stamp application. For food stamps, a fraud referral/home visit is triggered when a credible allegation of fraud is received through the Fraud Referral Hotline or when significant discrepant information is received by the worker.

 

 

 

Why do food stamp applicants have to be photographed and fingerprinted?

The Statewide Fingerprinting Imaging System (SFIS) is a State mandated requirement designed to ensure only eligible persons receive aid. The California Department of Social Services does not allow counties the option of waiving the SFIS requirements. All counties must comply with the SFIS State mandate.

Questions about SFIS (PUB 337)PDF icon

 

 

What can I buy with food stamps?

You can use food stamp benefits to buy bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. Households cannot use food stamp benefits to buy nonfood items such as pet food, soap, paper products, household supplies, grooming items, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, vitamins, medicines, food to eat in the store, or hot foods.

 

 

Can I get food stamps just for myself if I live with my family or with others?

People who live together and purchase food and prepare meals together are grouped as a "household". Husbands and wives and their children under age 22 must be one household.

 

 

Will I have to get a Social Security number to get food stamps?

Yes, you must have or apply for a Social Security number for each household member.

 

 

Can a homeless person get food stamps?

Yes. A person must reside in the county in which an application is filed. Residing in permanent housing or having a fixed mailing address is not required.

 

 

Can I get food stamps if I'm not working?

Yes. However, if you're able to work, you must look for work, take a job offer or attend job training.

 

 

How many assets can we have for food stamps?

Households with a member age 60 or older may have up to $3,000 in countable assets. Other households may have up to $2,000. The program does not count the assets of people who are receiving cash assistance (CalWORKs), the home you live in or your vehicles.

 

 

How much income can we have to qualify for food stamps?

To be eligible your total income must be less or equal to the Maximum Monthly Gross Income Standard, and Net Monthly Income Standard limits. Gross income is your income before taxes and other deductions allowed under the program; Net Income is what is left over after the Food Stamp Program deductions. Households with at least one member who's disabled or age 60 or older have to meet Net Monthly Income limits only. See the Food Stamp Income Limit Chart.

 

 

What are the Food Stamp Program allowable deductions?

Deductions are expenses allowed under the program that can be subtracted from the household’s monthly gross income. Food stamp deductions include:

  • 20% deduction from earned income,
  • Standard deduction of $141 for households with 1-3 members,
  • Standard deduction of $153 for a household with 4 members,
  • Standard deduction of $179 for a household with 5 members,
  • Standard deduction of $205 for a household with 6 or more members,
  • Cost of child care when needed to work, seek work or attend training for work,
  • Medical expenses exceeding $35 for elderly or disabled household members,
  • Court ordered child support payments paid to non-household members, and
  • A portion of shelter and utility costs, which includes rent or mortgage payments and utilities.

 

 

Can I get food stamps if I am not a United States citizen?

You may be eligible if you are a “qualified” noncitizen. This includes Permanent Legal Residents (holders of a green card), refugees, asylees (an individual who has been granted asylum), individuals granted withholding of deportation or removal, Cuban/Haitian entrants, individuals paroled into the U.S. for a least one year by immigration authorities, conditional entrants (temporary green card).
Certain victims of domestic violence, victims of human trafficking (T visa) and applicants for U visa/interim relief are also eligible for food stamps.

 

 

 

Will the County report my immigration status to the immigration authorities?

No. Your immigration status information will only be used to check whether you are eligible for food stamps.

 

 

 

Will I have problems with immigration when applying for a green card or citizenship if I apply for food stamps for my children?

No. Unlike receiving other cash assistance, receiving food stamps does not make an immigrant a “public charge.” Food stamps are a nutrition assistance program. An immigrant’s use of food stamps is not used in deciding whether he/she can obtain a green card or become a United States citizen, except if the food stamps were obtained fraudulently, (e.g. if the immigrant did not report all his/her income, etc).

 

 

 

Can my children get food stamps even if I don’t have immigration documents?

Yes. Your children may be eligible even if you are not. You may apply for food stamps for your child(ren) who were born in the United States, or are permanent residents.

 

 

Am I eligible for food stamps if I have a drug-related felony conviction on my record?

You may be eligible depending on the type of drug-related felony conviction.

If you have been convicted of any of the following felonies, you are NOT eligible for food stamps:

  • Felony conviction for unlawfully transporting, importing drugs into California, or
  • Selling, furnishing, administering, giving away, possessing for sale, manufacturing a controlled substance, or
  • Cultivating, harvesting, or processing marijuana, or
  • Unlawfully soliciting, inducing, encouraging, or intimidating a minor to participate in any of the activities listed above.

If you were convicted of use or possession only, you may be eligible to food stamps if you provide evidence that you are no longer using illegal drugs, and

  • Completed a government-recognized drug treatment program, or
  • Participated in a government recognized drug treatment program, or
  • Are enrolled in a government recognized drug treatment program, or
  • Be placed on a waiting list for a government recognized drug treatment program.

 

 

Can I get food stamps if I receive SSI/SSP benefits?

In the State of California you cannot get food stamps if you receive Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP). Instead of food stamp benefits, SSI/SSP recipients receive a cash amount as a food supplement in their SSI/SSP check.

 

 

Can I get food stamps if I am a college student?

Students, ages 18 through 49 enrolled in college or other institutions of higher education at least half time, are not eligible for food stamp benefits. However, students may be able to get food stamp benefits if they are:

  • Physically or mentally unfit, or
  • Working at least 20 hours per week, or
  • Participating in a state or federally financed work study program, or
  • Participating in an on-the-job training program, or
  • Receiving CalWORKs benefits, or
  • Taking care of a dependent household member under the age of 6, or
  • Taking care of a dependent household member over the age of 6 but under 12 and do not have adequate child care to be able to attend school and work a minimum of 20 hours, or to take part in a state or federally financed work study program, or
  • Single parent enrolled full time in college and taking care of a dependent household member under the age of 12, or
  • Enrolled in college as a result of participation in the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), or the Job Opportunities and Basic Skill (JOBS) program under Title IV of the Social Security Act.

 

 

  

How do I contact ACCESS?
  1. County of San Diego: ACCESS
  2. The regular phone number is toll free at 1 (866) 262-9881.
  3. The TDD number for the hearing impaired is (858) 514-6889.
  4. The fax number is (858) 467-9088.
  5. Online e-mail form

 

 

If I am eligible for General Relief, am I also eligible for food stamps?

If you are eligible for General Relief, you are probably also eligible for food stamps. You must apply for food stamps separately, but can do so at the same time as you apply for General Relief.

 

 

What is San Diego County doing to increase enrollment in the Food Stamp Program?

Since 2006, the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) has been actively engaged in outreach and has partnered with a number of internal and external organizations to help inform residents of the availability of food stamp benefits and how to apply for them. On January 27th, 2009, the Board of Supervisors directed HHSA to identify ways to simplify the Food Stamp Program and seek funding to establish an incentive program to purchase fruits and vegetables. Based on the Board’s directive, HHSA is developing potential new strategies and partnerships.