Q.  We have a dear, elderly neighbor who lives on SSI and, to my surprise, I learned that she is not eligible for food stamps. However, I hear that a new law was passed that will soon make her, as well as other persons on SSI, newly eligible for food stamps. Is that so?

A. Indeed it is! To the surprise of many, California residents on SSI have traditionally not been eligible for food stamps. The reason is buried in prior state legislative history going back to 1974. But the good news is that, under newly passed Assembly Bill 1811, Californians on SSI will soon now be eligible.

Under AB 1811, and beginning in the Summer of 2019, persons receiving SSI will be newly eligible for Cal Fresh, the California nutrition program, formally known as “Food Stamps”.  While the new law will mostly increase the numbers of persons eligible for food stamps, there will be some households that may be negatively affected by the change, principally those with both SSI eligible and non-SSI eligible persons sharing meals and food purchases in the same household. However, even as to them, those “mixed” households can still apply for enhanced nutrition benefits under supplemental food programs, all designed to increase access by all households to good nutrition.

The new law kicks in as of June, 2019, but persons who may be eligible to have their Cal Fresh re-evaluated are urged to contact their County eligibility worker now. Here are some contact points: (1) on the web, click on “GetCalFresh.org”, (2) by phone, call the Cal Fresh Benefits Helpline at 1-877-847-3663; or (3) personally visit your County Department of Social Services and apply.

Thanks for being the good neighbor and I hope this information helps your friend.


References for more readingAB1811 and Scroll to Item # 10;   CalFreshFood.org; another resource: Expanding Cal Fresh to SSI/SSP Recipients;  Still more in “Justice in Aging” Fact Sheet.   Legislative Analysts’ study, including a short explanation entitled “What is the SSI Cash-Out” by Legislative Analyst’s Office.  See pages 4–5 for the history.