CalFresh time limits

CalFresh does not have a time limit in the sense of the CalWORKs (TANF) program, in which people generally cannot get aid after reaching the limit. Rather, in the CalFresh program, benefits are approved for a fixed period after which eligibility needs to be reconfirmed.

Once the CalFresh office decides that a household qualifies for CalFresh benefits, the program will “certify” (i.e., approve) the household for a certain number of months. [MPP § 63-504.1; 7 C.F.R. § 273.10(f).] The length of time for which the household is approved to get CalFresh benefits is called a “certification period.” Certification periods can be as short as one month [MPP § 63-504.141(a); 7 C.F.R. § 273.10(f)(3)(iii).], or as long as one year. [MPP § 63-504.1; 7 C.F.R. § 273.10(f)(5).] If everyone in the household is “elderly” or “disabled,” it can be certified for as long as two years. [MPP § 63-504.142; 7 C.F.R. § 273.10(f)(1).]  For households with only elderly and/or disabled members and no earned income, the certification period is 36 months.  [See Elderly Simplified Application Project.]

The CalFresh office must certify the household for the maximum certification period allowable for the household type.  [Welf. & Inst. Code § 18910.1; ACL 17-101.]  Any determination of a certification shorter than 12 months should be made on a case-by-case basis.  [Id.]

CalFresh Households and CalWORKs assistance units now provide information about income received during the 30 days prior to submitting the annual recertification.  Counties must determine the relevant period based on when the household or assistance unit submits their annual recertification or when the county sends a CW 2200 Request for Verification form.  This does not change the process for semi-annual reports or initial applications. [ACL 21-24.]

Counties must request verification of any income received during the 30 days prior to submission of the annual recertification.  Verification is not required for households or assistance units that report no income during the 30 days prior to submission of the annual recertification. Verification is also not required the income source has stopped (for example job loss) or the income is not reasonably anticipated to continue, and the loss of income is not questionable. [Id.]

If complete income information is not submitted with the annual recertification, the county must send a CW 2200 Request for Verification form to request verification of income.  The CW 2200 must list the specific date range for which income verification is requested.  The CW 2200 must request income verification for 30 days prior to the date of the form.  If the client returns income verification that is outside of the 30 day period stated on the form, but is sufficient to determine eligibility, the county must accept it. [Id.]

The 30 day verification period may not always fall within one calendar month.  The household or assistance unit can only be required to provide income verification for a specific calendar month.  If the household or assistance unit submit income verification that crosses more than one month, the county must convert the income to a monthly average. [Id.]

Once the CalFresh office has certified the household for a period of time, it usually cannot make the household apply to be recertified until it is within the last two months of that certification period. But the CalFresh office can shorten the certification period if someone in the household is cut off public assistance. [MPP § 63-504.161; 7 C.F.R. § 273.10(f)(4).] If it does this, the CalFresh office must tell the household at least a month in advance that the certification period is being shortened. [MPP § 63-504.251.] The household must then given a chance to apply to be recertified.

If someone is an Able-Bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) — that is, some between the ages of 18 to 59, not disabled from work, does not have any dependent children and is unemployed — then that person may be limited to three months of CalFresh benefits in any give 36-month period. [MPP § 63-410; 7 U.S.C. § 2015(o); 7 C.F.R. § 273.24.]