Farm worker rights in the CalFresh program

Migrant and seasonal farm workers have all of the same rights under the CalFresh (SNAP) program that other people do. They also have some special rights.

Migrant or seasonal farm workers may have other special rights if they are homeless. (See the other sections about special rules applicable to the homeless for more details.) Even migrant or seasonal farm workers who live in temporary housing may qualify as homeless people.

Households do not have to have a fixed address to get CalFresh benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.3(a); MPP § 63-401.] They only have to live in the area at the time they apply. Farm workers can apply without help from their crew leader or labor contractor. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(c)(1); MPP § 63-300.3.] If they qualify, they do not have to let their CalFresh benefits be sent to the crew leader or labor contractor. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(n)(4)(iii); MPP §§ 63-402.8, 63-601.1.]

Migrant and seasonal farm workers have a right to get CalFresh benefits for a full month, even if they apply after the beginning of the month, if they got SNAP benefits within the last 30 days. [7 U.S.C. § 2017(c)(2)(C); 7 C.F.R. § 273.10(a)(1)(ii); MPP § 63-301.5.] It does not matter whether they received SNAP benefits in the same state or somewhere else, as long as they were getting SNAP benefits within the last 30 days.

Emergency vendor payments that state or local welfare agencies make for migrant or seasonal farm workers do not count as income when the farm workers are in the job stream. [7 U.S.C. § 2014(k)(2)(E); 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(1)(i)(D) and (ii)(C)] For example, if the welfare office pays a hotel for a room for the household while the farm worker waits for the crops to be ready, that would not count as income. It also would not count as income if the welfare office paid a garage to fix the farm worker’s car or a gas station to provide gas or oil while the farm worker is in the job stream.

Unlike most CalFresh (SNAP) households, migrant and seasonal farm workers do not have to turn in regular reports to the welfare office. [7 U.S.C. § 2015(c)(1)(A)(ii); 7 C.F.R. §§ 273.12(a)(4)(i) and 273.21(b)(1)(ii).]

CalFresh offices should only count as income money that they can be reasonably certain households will get in the next month. [7 C.F.R. § 273.10(c)(1)(i); MPP §§ 63-503.212(a), 63-503.242(a).] The CalFresh office should not act as if a household will get income just because there is work in the area. Most loans, such as travel advances, do not count as income. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(4); MPP § 63-502.2.] Travel advances also are excluded as reimbursements. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(5)(i)(A); MPP § 63-502.2.] Money earned by students under 18 does not count as income. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(7); MPP § 63-502.2.]

Migrant and seasonal farm workers can count the costs of keeping up a home that their household uses part of the year, such as a winter home in Texas or Florida, to get an excess shelter cost deduction. [7 C.F.R. § 273.9(d)(6)(ii)(D); MPP § 63-502.35 and 502.36.] This home does not count as a resource even when the household is away working. [7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(1); MPP § 63-501.3.]

The car, truck or van that migrant or seasonal farm workers drive to get from one job to another does not count as a resource no matter what it is worth. [7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(3)(i)(C); MPP § 63-501.52.] Cars, trucks and vans that migrant or seasonal farm workers live in also do not count as resources. [7 C.F.R. § 273.8(e)(1), (e)(3)(i)(D); MPP §§ 63-501.3, 63-501.52.]

Migrant and seasonal farm workers can get CalFresh benefits even after they quit a job if they quit at or near the end of the season or at some other time when many farm workers normally change jobs. [7 C.F.R. § 273.7(n)(3)(viii).]

Households have a right to get and turn in applications by mail. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(c); MPP § 63-300.3.] If the household has trouble getting to the CalFresh office for an interview, it may have a right to be interviewed somewhere closer to home or over the telephone. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(e)(2); MPP § 63-300.4.] Households have the right to file applications the same day they go to the CalFresh office even if it is very busy. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(c)(1); MPP § 63-300.31.]

Migrant and seasonal farm worker households can qualify for expedited (emergency) CalFresh benefits within three calendar days under the same rules that apply to other households. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(1); MPP § 63-301.51.] Migrant and seasonal farm workers with $100 or less in cash, money in the bank, stocks, bonds, and other things they can turn into cash quickly (“liquid resources”) may also qualify for expedited service if:

If the migrant or seasonal farm worker household is eligible for expedited service, the CalFresh office must not count any income that it has not yet received when it calculates the household’s first monthly CalFresh allotment. [7 C.F.R. § 273.10(e)(iv).]

Migrant and seasonal farm workers can get expedited CalFresh benefits for the month they apply without giving the CalFresh office any proof (“verification”) except I.D. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4); MPP § 63-301.54.] Migrant and seasonal farm workers who qualify for expedited service do not have to get proof or verification from employers or other people in other states until it is time for them to get the third month’s CalFresh benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.2(i)(4); MPP § 63-301.546.] However, the household should turn in verification to the CalFresh office as soon as it gets it.

The CalFresh office must give migrant and seasonal farm workers faster fair hearings so that they get decisions before they leave the area. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(i)(2); MPP § 22-045.21.] When a CalFresh office denies a household expedited service, the household has a right to a meeting with the CalFresh office within two days. [7 C.F.R. § 273.15(d)(2); MPP § 63-804.4.] This is called an “agency conference.” (See the sections about notices and fair hearings for more details on hearings and agency conferences.)

If enough low-income households in an area do not speak English, the CalFresh office must have forms in those households’ languages and hire staff to translate. [7 C.F.R. § 272.4(b); MPP § 63-202.21]. (See the section about people who do not speak English for more information.) This is true even if most or all of the households that do not speak English are migrant farm workers who will soon leave the area. CalFresh offices may not discriminate because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, handicap, or religious or political beliefs. [7 C.F.R. § 272.6; 7 C.F.R. § 15.3; MPP §§ 21-101, 21-203.] Applicants and recipients have the right to complain to USDA if they think they are being treated unfairly by the CalFresh office.

Some legal immigrants can qualify for CalFresh benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4; MPP § 63-405.] (See the section about immigrant eligibility for CalFresh and counting a legal immigrant’s quarters of work for more details.) Some members of a household may be able to get CalFresh even if other members do not qualify because of their immigration status. [7 C.F.R. § 273.11(c)(2).] Immigrants who had people sponsor them to get into the county may have some of the income and resources of the sponsor counted as income and resources for their households, but there are exceptions to this rule. [7 C.F.R. § 273.4(c); 8 C.F.R. §§ 213a and 299; MPP § 63-403.2.] (For more details, see the chart explanation the treatment of income and resources of persons excluded from the CalFresh household.)

Each individual in the household who is applying to receive CalFresh must provide information about their immigration status and Social Security number. This information will be provided to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the sole purpose of determining eligibility for benefits, and cannot be used for immigration enforcement unless a criminal violation is involved. Individuals who are not seeking to receive CalFresh themselves must provide accurate information about their income, but do not need to provide any information about their legal status or Social Security number. If they chose not to provide this information, they will simply be treated as “ineligible” immigrants. [See 7 C.F.R. § 273.4(b)(2).]