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15. Getting and filling out an application form

How and where to get a food stamp application

The food stamp process begins with an application. In the past, applicants often had to go to the food stamp office to get a food stamp application.  For information on the process for referring people applying for Affordable Care Act Health coverage, see ACL 13-103.  There are now a number of ways in California to get an application:

  • Call the state-wide food stamp hotline: The phone number is (877) 847-3663. This is a toll-free number and it currently accepts calls in English and Spanish. If applicants enter their zip code they can be given specific county application information. During business hours you can also speak with an operator and request an application.
  • Contact the county welfare department (CWD) directly: Applicants can find the contact information for their local welfare office in the phone book or get the contact information online. They can request an application by phone, fax, mail or in person.
  • Download an application from the Web: A person can also download a food stamp application in a number of languages.
  • Apply online: People can apply on-line, through the automation system serving their county.  Residents of C-IV automation system counties can apply through C4Yourself.  (These are: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Lake, Lassen, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Riverside, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yuba counties). Applicants in certain CalWIN Counties can apply through Benefits CalWIN.  The Benefits CalWIN counties are: Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Orange, Placer, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Tulare, Ventura, and Yolo.  (San Luis Obispo has not yet gone live.) Los Angeles also has an on-line application.
  • Pick up an application at a community location: Legal aid offices, community action agencies, food banks, and welfare rights groups often have food stamp applications.
  • Apply for reduced-cost school meals: Starting July 1, 2013, counties and schools can treat the application for reduced cost meals as a CalFresh application, if they have an MOU with the Local Education Agency. AB 402; ACIN I-38-13.  (Since no additional funding was provided, this program is voluntary at this point; check if your county is participating.)
  • Get linked through Social Security Benefits: Starting July 1, 2012, the DSS will be working with SSA to have a means of identifying seniors on SSDI and creating a streamlined application process.  Counties, at their option, can tap into that information and facilitate application processing of these seniors.  See AB 69.

Avoiding a trip

Try to save a trip to the food stamp office by having an application sent by mail. However, if the applicant household needs expedited (emergency) food stamps, it should not wait for a mailed application; the applicant should head down to the local office right away.  Many food banks and community organizations now have “food assisters” who can help with on-line applications.

Filling out the application

Counties cannot require applicants to complete any prescreening form.  MPP §63-301.21.  A food stamp application need not be completely filled out to be submitted, as long as it lists the name and address of the applicant, and is signed. MPP §63-300.32; 7 C.F.R. §272.2(c)(1). Counties also may not require the interview to be done to consider the application complete.  Id.

Since benefits must be issued within 30 days of receipt of an application, it is in an applicant’s best interest to get the application in quickly. The applicant should not wait for help in completing an application — the applicant should send the application in with the name and address information completed and with a signature. The county must then assist the household in completion of the rest of the application.

Some counties also work with community-based organizations to assist applicants in filling out the paperwork. If such help is desired, ask your county for community contacts.