59. How to keep getting food stamps (certification periods)
Generally, food stamp recipients do not continuously receive food stamps; they must recertify by completing a new application when their certification period ends if they wish to continue receiving assistance. [7 C.F.R. § 273.14(a); MPP § 63-504.61.] In California, most households are on a 12-month certification period. Some households with elderly and disabled members are on 24-month certification periods. Counties cannot waive or extend the recertification period for workload or budget reasons. ACL 11-57. California received a waiver from FNS that permits the shortening of certification periods for CalFresh households at any time to align with the other programs (CalWORKs, Medi-Cal). ACL 13-08.
Notice of recertification
- The date when their certification period ends. [7 C.F.R. § 273.14(b)(1)(ii) (A).];
- The date by which they must submit an application for recertification on order to receive uninterrupted benefits. [7 C.F.R. § 273.14(b)(1)(ii) (B).];
To reapply, most applicants need an interview. Previously, households were required (with some exceptions, below) to have a face-to-face interview at the welfare office to renew (recertify) the food stamps application. The state regulations now provide that counties may opt to waive the face-to-face interview for Quarterly Reporting households and for households with elderly or disabled household members. 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 verifyconditions of eligibility, or 3) when the client is in the office submitting an application and wishes to complete the interview, or 4) at recertification if the household has notcomplied with SFIS (finger imaging) requirements. MPP § 63-300.41. If the face-to-face is waived, the household can have a telephone interview instead. The telephone interview would 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.)
The county must waive the face-to-face interview if all household members are 60 or older, or disabled. MPP §63-300.42. It may waive the face-to-face (in addition to the above waiver), if coming in person would be a hardship for the household. MPP §63-300.43. If the county cannot do a telephone interview because it must verify eligibility factors, it can do a home visit; it must schedule this visit in advance with the household.MPP § 63-300.45.
Households applying for a new certification period can get expedited (emergency) food stamps if they qualify. [MPP § 63-504.61 (a).]
Breaks in assistance
If applicants reapply before the 15th day of the last month of their certification period, and remain eligible, the food stamp office must make sure that the food stamps keep coming without any break. [7 C.F.R. § 273.14(d)(2); MPP § 504.61(a).]
If the food stamp office finds that recipients continue to qualify for food stamps, it will recertify them and give them a new certification period. [MPP § 504.61(a).]