The upcoming implementation of the reversal of the CalFresh SSI/SSP cash-out policy is especially important to the I/DD community. The majority of Californians with I/DD rely on SSI/SSP for their monthly income. Yet before this reversal they were ineligible to participate in the CalFresh nutrition benefit program. A program which has helped millions of low income Californians put food on their tables.
The following information from a Californians for SSI Coalition flyer is a primer on what we need to know:
SSI/SSP Recipients Will Be Eligible for CalFresh in Summer 2019
- In the summer of 2019, the ‘cash-out’ policy that bans SSI recipients from receiving CalFresh (food stamps) will end.
- SSI and SSP benefits will NOT be reduced or eliminated as a result of ending cash-out.
- This change means that an SSI recipient may receive CalFresh AND SSI/SSP benefits.
Summary of Changes When Cash-Out Ends in Summer 2019
Newly Eligible for CalFresh
Most SSI recipients, individuals and SSI couples, will be newly eligible for CalFresh in summer 2019.
They will need to apply over the phone, in person, or online. If approved, they will get an EBT card and the CalFresh benefit will be loaded onto it each month.
The average CalFresh benefit for a household of 1 is $130 a month. Benefits will vary based on household circumstances.
Still Eligible for CalFresh and/or State Funded Nutrition Benefits
Some SSI recipients will be living in a household where other members are already receiving CalFresh. At their
next reporting deadline, these households will be asked to provide information about any SSI recipients – and then their CalFresh amount should be automatically recalculated.
For some households, adding the SSI recipient and their income may increase the CalFresh benefit.
For other households, adding the SSI recipient and their income will lead to apartial or total loss of their CalFresh benefit. These households will be eligible to receive a state-funded nutrition benefit, either the Supplemental Nutrition Benefit (partial loss) or the Transitional Nutrition Benefit (total loss), which will help offset the loss of CalFresh.
CalFresh Information for SSI Social Service Providers
Starting in Summer 2019, people will be able to receive CalFresh benefits and SSI benefits at the same time. This presents a tremendous opportunity to increase food security for very low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Successfully implementing this policy change next summer will require a collaborative effort to educate and enroll SSI recipients in CalFresh.
Right now, CalFresh provides nearly four million Californians—half of them children—an average of $130 a month on a debit (EBT) card to purchase food at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The change in summer 2019 will provide CalFresh benefits for the first time to a significant number of seniors and people with disabilities who receive SSI.
Over 1.2 million low income Californians receive very modest SSI grants to help meet basic needs. More than half are seniors, about 1 in 10 are children with disabilities, and the rest are adults with disabilities. Everyone who receives SSI is also enrolled in Medi-Cal. One third also receive In-Home Supportive Services to help them remain safely in their home.
When exactly will this change go into effect?
The change will go into effect starting June 1, 2019, with applications being accepted starting May 1.
Will SSI benefits be reduced as a result of ending cash-out?
No, SSI benefits will NOT be reduced as a result of ending cash-out. The change simply means that someone can receive both CalFresh benefits and SSI benefits at the same time.
Will CalFresh benefits be counted as income when determining the SSI/ SSP benefit?
No, CalFresh benefits will not count as income or resources for SSI purposes.
Should people who previously declined SSI in order to receive CalFresh apply for SSI?
Yes! These individuals should apply for SSI after the change goes into effect on June 1, 2019.
As a provider, what should I be doing now?
Please do not encourage SSI recipients to apply for CalFresh before May 1, as they will not be eligible. Think through how the SSI recipients you work with will experience this change and what processes need to be in place to educate and enroll SSI recipients in summer 2019. Talk with other community based organizations and your County about how enrollment into CalFresh of large numbers of SSI recipients will be handled.
The California Department of Social Services—the state agency that administers the CalFresh program—has set up a webpage on implementation of this change. You can also get more information from the Californians for SSI coalition.