Income limits

The CalFresh program has two income tests: gross and net monthly income limits. [7 U.S.C. § 2014; 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(a); MPP §§ 63-409.11, 63-503.321(a)(QR).] CalFresh rules exclude some money from being counted as income to the household.

Gross monthly income

“Gross monthly income” is the household’s income before any allowable deductions. Gross income includes gross pay from work before the employer takes out taxes, union dues, and other deductions. One’s pay stub should have the gross income on it.

The circumstances of the household members directly affect whether the gross income test even applies to the household and, if so, to what extent. For example:

  • If all members of the household are on cash welfare assistance, the household is categorically eligible regardless of its gross or net income.
  • If any member of the household is elderly or disabled, there is no gross income test. The household gets to pass go, directly to “net income.” (But the household must still meet the net income standard.)
  • Otherwise, household members must meet the gross income eligibility standard, which is 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.9(a), 273.10(e)(2)(i)(B); MPP § 63-503.326(QR).

So, absent the situations where either everyone in the household is on cash welfare assistance, or someone in the household is elderly or disabled, the CalFresh office will first look to see if the household’s gross monthly income is below the applicable “130% of the federal poverty guidelines” limit. If the household’s income is below the gross monthly income limit, then the CalFresh office will then look at the household’s net income.

If a person over 60 with a “permanent disability” (within the meaning of the federal Social Security standard) wants to be a separate household, but cannot buy/prepare food separately, she may nonetheless be a “separate household” if the other members of the household with whom she lives qualify under a higher “165% of poverty” gross income limit. (This rule would not apply to a separate “elderly or disabled” household, which would not be subject to the gross income limit.) The rules about applying the higher gross income limit are confusing, so be sure to read the section about the gross monthly income standards for households where an “elderly” or “disabled” member is a separate household. (Then take two aspirin and call us in the morning.)

The current gross monthly income limits are in ACIN I-63-17.

Net monthly income

The net income of a household — i.e., income after all allowable deductions under the CalFresh rules have been subtracted — must be below the CalFresh program’s net income eligibility standard. [7 C.F.R. §§ 273.9(a)(2), 273.10(e)(1)(i); MPP §§ 63-503.322(a)(QR), 63-505.323.] The net income limit is 100% of poverty. If the household’s net monthly income is more than the net income limit, the household cannot get CalFresh benefits.