How households get their CalFresh benefits

The delivery of “food stamp” benefits via “coupons” is so, well… last century! In the late 1990s “food stamp coupons” were supplanted by the federally mandated Electronic Benefit Transfer system, a “debit-card” system commonly referred to as “EBT.” All states and territories now participate in the EBT system, which is fully interoperable among all states, nationwide. A recipient’s CalFresh EBT card will work in all the other states, the same way it works in California.

The CalFresh office sends recipients an identification (I.D.) card, which recipients should have with them when using their EBT card to purchase food items. In some counties, the CalFresh office may make you have your picture taken for the I.D. card. [MPP § 63-504.81.] Households eligible for expedited service do not need photo I.D.s if they cannot get them in time to receive this service. [MPP § 63-504.874.]

Residents of drug or alcohol treatment and rehabilitation programs do not have to have photo identification. [MPP § 63-504.871.] Households members also do not have to have their pictures taken if their religious beliefs prohibit their being photographed. [MPP § 63-504.872.] Households certified by an out-of-office interview also do not have to have an I.D. taken under certain circumstances. [MPP § 63-504.873.]

The CalFresh office must have rules that make it easy for households with special needs — such as elderly or disabled people, households in rural areas, homeless households, and households that don’t speak English — to get their CalFresh benefits. [7 U.S.C. § 2020(e)(2)(A).]

The legal standard imposed on a state’s “food stamp” (now called SNAP) program to assist those with special needs was changed explicitly in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, to place a more strict burden on the state agency. That new standard shifted the burden to the state to “establish procedures governing the operation of food stamp offices that the state agency determines best serve households in the state, including households with special needs.” [H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 104-725 at p.233 (1996).] In addition, in disasters the Secretary of Agriculture has the authority to modify methods of delivery. [7 U.S.C. § 2014(h)(3)(B); 7 C.F.R. § 280.1.]