How to keep getting CalFresh benefits (certification periods)


CalFresh households must “recertify” their eligibility in order to keep continuously receiving CalFresh benefits. To do this, they must complete a new application before the 15th of the month when their certification period will end. [MPP § 63-504.61; 7 C.F.R. § 273.14(a); ACL 13-18].  In California, most households have a 12-month certification period.  Some household with elderly or disabled members have a 24 month certification period.  Households that only have elderly and/or disabled members and no earned income are certified for 36 months.  [See Elderly Simplified Application Process.]   Counties cannot waive or extend the recertification period for workload or budget reasons.]   Counties cannot waive or extend their recertification for workload or budget reasons.  [ACL 11-57.]

Notice of recertification

The CalFresh office must send recipients a notice giving them a chance to reapply before their CalFresh benefits stop. [7 C.F.R. § 273.14(b)(1); MPP § 63-504.61.] For the rare situation in which someone is certified for 2 months or less, the notice of approval must also be accompanied by the “NEC” notice (notice of expiring certification). [ACL 13-18.]

Federal regulations require the notice tell recipients:

  • The date when their certification period ends;
  • The date by which they must submit an application for recertification on order to receive uninterrupted benefits;
  • The consequences of failure to apply for recertification in a timely manner;
  • Notice of the right to receive an application form upon request and to have it accepted as long as it contains a signature and a legible name and address;
  • Information on alternative submission methods available to households which cannot come into the certification office or do not have an authorized representative and how to exercise these options;
  • The address of the office where the application must be filed;
  • The household’s right to request a fair hearing if the recertification is denied or if the household objects to the benefit issuance;
  • Notice that any household consisting only of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applicants or recipients is entitled to apply for CalFresh recertification at an office of the Social Security Administration;
  • Notice that failure to attend an interview may result in delay or denial of benefits; and
  • Notice that the household is responsible for rescheduling a missed interview and for providing required verification information.

[See 7 C.F.R. § 273.14(b).]

The notice of recertification form is called the CF 377.2.   [See ACL 18-118.]

Recertification interviews

To reapply, most applicants need an interview. All California counties are now required to waive the in-person interview, unless the person wants one that way. [ACL 12-26.]

Whether in-person or by phone, counties can opt to provide “on demand” interviews, where clients can have the interview done any time in a 2 week (10 business days) period. [See ACL 14-20.]

Households in which all adults are are elderly or disabled on “non-assistance” CalFresh (i.e., not receiving CalWORKs or General Assistance) and who have no earned income, are not required to have recertification interviews. [ACL 13-58.] The county should only schedule an interview for this group if (1) they request one; (2) the county appears to no longer be eligible based; or (3) the information the household provided is questionable or contradictory. [Id.] However, a face-to-face interview must be conducted (1) when requested by the household or the household’s authorized representative; (2) when the county determines it is necessary to verify conditions of eligibility; or (3) when the client is in the office submitting an application and wishes to complete the interview. [MPP § 63-300.41.]

The telephone interview should follow the procedures established in MPP § 63-300.45. Otherwise, general interview procedures would apply. (See the section of this guide about the interview process for related details.)

As with the initial application, recipients will also need to give the CalFresh office verification at recertification as well. The county’s request for verification must include examples of what proof will suffice and state that the county can help in gathering the verification. [MPP § 63-300.37; 7 C.F.R. § 273.2(c)(5).]  Counties must use the CW 2200 form to request verification.  [ACL 14-26.]

Breaks in assistance

If applicants reapply before the 15th day of the last month of their certification period, and remain eligible, the CalFresh office must make sure that the CalFresh benefits keep coming without any break. [MPP § 63-504.61(a); 7 C.F.R. § 273.14(d)(2).]

If the CalFresh office finds that recipients continue to qualify for CalFresh benefits, it will recertify them and give them a new certification period. [MPP § 63-504.61(a).]

If the household submits the recertification application late (i.e., after the 15th day of the last month of the certification period), they may have a delay in getting their benefits. This could also occur if they do not turn their verification in on time or if the county does not have enough time to process the recertification before the period end. Since the county cannot issue benefits beyond the certification period, the benefits will be provided upon completion of the whole process, which may result in a break in aid.

Households applying for a new certification period can get expedited (emergency) CalFresh benefits, if they qualify, because the recertification is not processed in time to avoid a break in aid. [MPP § 63-504.61(a).]