5. Households receive food stamps
Food stamps are given to “households.” [MPP §§ 63-301.1, 301.53, 601.1; 7 C.F.R. §§ 273.2, 274.1(a).] Who is in the food stamps (CalFresh) household will determine whose income to count, and the amount of the benefits allotment. A “household” is a person living alone or a group of people living together (they do not have to be related) who buy food and make meals together. [MPP § 63-402.1; 7 C.F.R. §273.1(a)(3).] Under this regulation, a person who lives with others, but customarily buys and prepares food separate and apart from others, can be a separate “food stamp household.”
The state agency must ensure that no one gets duplicate aid. 7 CFR § 272.4(e)(1). State agencies are required to perform require “death matches” (gruesome!) against the Death Master File at Social Security, as well as incarceration (longer than 30 days) checks. “Death Matches” with Social Security Administration data must be conducted at application and no less frequently than annually. 7 C.F.R § 273.14(c)(1). Prisoner verification must be done at application and recertification. See November 15, 2011, “Routine Checks with Neighboring States to Prevent Duplicate Participation and Performing Deceased and Prisoner Verification Matches” memo, and pre-publication final regulations, 273.13(a). Minor children, and single person households who have undergone a face-to-face (in person) interview, are exempt from this verification. 7 C.F.R § 273.13(b)(1).
For households with 50-50% custody arrangements, this means the county must ensure that the children don’t receive aid in two different households. MPP § 63-402.15. In these situations, if both parent’s households are eligible, the county needs to decide which household will be given food stamps. If the child eats more meals with one parent, that would be the eligible household. Otherwise, the first to apply for aid would be the aided household. The parents can also decide amongst themselves who should be the recipient household. MPP § 63-402.151(a-c). (Parents with less than 50% custody could seek additional support for the food needs of the children through the family law court system, to address the issue of one parent getting full food stamps.)
The food stamp office will treat some people as one household even if they do not buy food and prepare meals together. See the section about special rules for students, strikers, roomers, boarders, and others in unusual situations. There can also be people in the household (who buy and cook together) who cannot get aid (excluded, sec Section 12 of this manual) or who opt not to get aid. See Joint Guidance on Citizenship, Immigration Status and Social Security Numbers, which discusses “opting out” of aid.
Aged and Disabled The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) interprets the separate household rule also to apply to any person who is too disabled to purchase his or her own food, but who has arranged to have his or her food purchased and prepared separately from those with whom he or she lives. Even if the person who shops for food or prepares meals for the disabled person may be residing with the disabled person, the disabled person may claim separate household status. [FNS Memorandum, Separate Household Status for Disabled Persons (June 12, 2006)] USDA interprets subsection 7 C.F.R. § 273.1(b)(2) to mean that elderly and disabled individuals, even though they “purchase and prepare meals” together with those with whom they live, are permitted to constitute a food stamp household separate from those with whom they reside, provided “the income of those with whom they reside (excluding the income of the elderly and disabled person) is no more than 165 percent of the Federal poverty income guideline.”
People Who Can’t Have A Separate Household [MPP § 63-402.14]
- Child under 18 under the parental control of a non-parent [MPP § 63-402.141]. (Emancipated minors are not considered children – MPP § 63- 102(p)(1); minors may rebut the parental control finding – MPP § 63-102(p)(2) .)
- Parents living with their natural, adopted or step children, or children living with their natural, adopted, or stepparents unless the child is 22 years or older or is the other parent’s food stamps household [MPP § 63-402.142] .
- Spouses living in the same household [MPP § 63-402.143]
- Individuals or groups living together cannot be a food stamps household if they are residents of an institution or residents of a commercial boarding house, or boarders, unless they meet the following exceptions [7 C.F.R. § 273.1(b)(3).]:
- Institution Exception [MPP § 63-402.4.]
- Certain group living situations are not defined as “institutions.” This includes: federally subsidized housing for the elderly, drug and alcohol residential treatment centers, disabled or blind Title II recipients in group living arrangements, Domestic Violence shelters, foster family homes (but not group homes unless the program is for disabled youth/meet the requirements of 63-402.43), and homeless shelters. (See the subsections of MPP § 63-402.4 for specific rules.)
- Boarder Exception [MPP § 63-402.3.]
- “Boarders” are ineligible to participate in the food stamp program independent of the household providing the board. Boarders can get food stamps with the owner of the boarding house, at the owner’s request. Foster children are treated as boarders. (See MPP § 63-402.32(b).) Note however, that AB 12 youth in “Extended Foster Care” (called “non-minor dependents”) who are in a supervised independent living placement, are, by statute, living independently, and don’t fall into the Foster Care/Boarder rule. (See WIC 11401(w), 11402(i).) If they purchase/prepare their food separately, they should qualify as a separate household. If they purchase/prepare with the supervising adult, they would be part of the larger CalFresh household. All children and youth in foster care are automatically eligible for free school nutrition programs. ACIN I-58-11.
- The rules distinguish between a boarder receiving at least two meals/day and paying a certain amount for the meals. Those who receive fewer meals or pay less than the specified amount are not boarders, and are treated as part of the larger household.
For more details about how these rules work and applicable federal and state regulations, see the section about special rules for those in in unusual situations.