Myth: It is embarrassing to go to the store with paper Food Stamps and they are difficult to use.
FACT: The CalFresh Program no longer uses paper stamps or coupons. CalFresh benefits are deposited on an EBT (Electronic Balance Transfer) card that looks like and works like a debit card with a PIN, and you can check your balance online or over the phone. You can use your EBT card at most places that sell food, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, stores like Target and Costco, some ethnic markets and some farmer’s markets.
Myth: CalFresh is like welfare and you are considered a public charge when you receive CalFresh benefits.
FACT: CalFresh is not welfare or cash aid; it is funded by the USDA (US Dept. or Agriculture). “Public charge” is a term used to describe an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by the receipt of public cash assistance or use of long-term care at government expense. CalFresh is not cash aid, and you will not be considered a public charge if you receive CalFresh.
Myth: I do not want to ask for help from the government and take CalFresh from someone else who needs it more.
FACT: CalFresh is an entitlement program, which means that all who are eligible and apply will receive benefits and you are not “taking someone else’s place” if you apply. The USDA sets aside funds for the program, and with underparticipation in the program, millions of dollars of benefits go unused.
Myth: I can only buy certain types of food with CalFresh benefits.
FACT: You can buy any food or drink with the exception of alcohol, foods that will be eaten in the store, and prepared hot foods. You can also buy seed and plants that produce food for the household to eat. Even “junk food” can be purchased with CalFresh, but it is encouraged to use benefits to provide healthy food for you and your family. You cannot use CalFresh to buy nonfood items such as cigarettes or tobacco, pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, vitamins and medicines, even if they are sold at food stores.
Myth: CalFresh is only for mothers or families with children.
FACT: CalFresh is for all types of people that fit within the eligibility guidelines. Fathers, single adults, people with disabilities and seniors are also eligible for CalFresh.
Myth: I am not related to the people in my household, or the people I live with are not my immediate family, so we are not eligible to apply for CalFresh together.
FACT: CalFresh households come in all shapes and sizes. For the purposes of CalFresh, a “household” consists of anyone who lives together and buys and prepares food together. In certain cases, a residence may have more than one household, if the people living together buy and prepare food separately and meet eligibility requirements individually.
Children Eligibility, Applications & Interviews
Myth: My children will have to repay CalFresh when they turn 18.
FACT: CalFresh is not a loan and does not need to be paid back by anyone who receives it.
Myth: My children will be drafted into the military in order to repay their CalFresh.
FACT: Your children will not be drafted because of CalFresh or other benefits received.
Myth: My children might be taken away from me if I receive CalFresh.
FACT: Your children will not be taken away from you if you apply for CalFresh. CalFresh helps to ensure that your children have healthy food to eat.
Myth: If I get CalFresh, my kids will not be able to get free or reduced-price school lunches, and I will not be able to receive WIC (Women, Infant, and Children Program).
FACT: All three programs are separate, and it is possible to receive WIC, the School Lunch Program, and CalFresh at the same time. All of these programs help to ensure that you and your family can be healthy and productive.
Citizenship or Legal Residency
Myth: If I am undocumented and I go to The County CalFresh Office on behalf of my family, the workers will turn me in. Immigration authorities check the CalFresh Office records.
FACT: Confidentiality is strictly enforced at The County CalFresh Office, and client records cannot be checked or shared with Immigration authorities. The only time you should be concerned is if there is a warrant for your arrest; if so, your name will be turned into the authorities.
Myth: If a citizen or legal resident in my household applies for CalFresh, undocumented members of the household will be deported.
FACT: CalFresh is intended to make sure that those that are eligible have access to CalFresh to have healthy food to eat. Confidentiality is strictly enforced and client records are not shared or reported to Immigration. For example, an undocumented mother can apply for CalFresh on behalf of her citizen child, and does not need to be concerned about deportation.
Myth: Signing up for CalFresh will affect my immigration status, or be used against me when I go to get Legal Permanent Residency or Citizenship status.
FACT: Non-cash benefits like CalFresh, Medi-Cal, and WIC will not affect immigration status and will not be used against you.
Eligibility, Applications & Interviews
Myth: Everyone must go to the CalFresh office for an interview, even seniors and the disabled.
FACT: If a senior, homebound or disabled person is unable to go to The County CalFresh Office, he or she may request a telephone interview, or an authorized representative may be sent in her or her place, such as a relative, pastor, or neighbor.
Myth: You have to go to The County CalFresh Office every few months to continue receiving benefits.
FACT: Seniors and permanently disabled people can get benefits for up to two years at a time. You do not have to go back to the office unless there are specific changes to yoru case. IF so, you can request a telephone interview or send someone in your place.
Myth: If I am receiving Social Security Retirement or Disability benefits, I am not eligible for CalFresh.
FACT: Both Social Security (SSA) benefit and Disability (SSDI and SDI) benefit recipients are eligible to apply for CalFresh. In fact, most seniors or people with disabilities don’t have to pass the gross income test. This means that some out-of-pocket medical, rent or mortgage, dependent care and electricity costs can be deducted from the household’s income before checking for income eligibility. A county eligibility worker an explain this in more detail. [Supplemental Security Index Program (SSI) recipients are NOT eligible for CalFresh because the benefit amount already includes money for food.]
Myth: Individuals cannot receive CalFresh if they own or buy a home.
FACT: Individuals can own or buy a home and still receive CalFresh. Home ownership is not taken into account when calculating applicant resources.
Myth: Seniors only receive a small amount in CalFresh benefits.
FACT: Benefit amounts depend on each household’s unique situation, and can range from $16 per month to around $200/month per person. Seniors have deductions/expenses factored in to their case, which can help increase the amount of benefits received. In 2009, in California the average benefit per person was $137 per month.
Myth: Seniors do not receive credit for medical and prescription drug bills.
FACT: Certain medical expenses are deducted from the household’s gross income to allow seniors to receive a greater amount of CalFresh benefits. This is just one factor of many taken into account in the CalFresh application. A Certified Application Assistant, such as a county eligibility worker, can help you understand deductions and other complex aspects of the CalFresh application.
Myth: Elderly households who receive CalFresh will not be able to receive Meals-On-Wheels.
FACT: Households can receive both CalFresh and Meals-On-Wheels. In fact, you can purchase Meals-On-Wheels using CalFresh.
Myth: People who are homeless are not eligible for CalFresh because you must have housing and a mailing address.
FACT: You do not have to have a permanent address to apply for CalFresh. Counties are required to provide options regarding mailing alternatives for homeless applicants to facilitate participation in the program. These options may include the use of PO boxes, alternative mailing addresses, general delivery pick-up (USPS), and pick up at the local County CalFresh Office. If you live in a shelter, you can bring a letter from a shelter employee that says you live there when you apply.
Myth: People who live in shelters can’t get CalFresh because they already get free meals.
FACT: You can get CalFresh even if you live in a shelter with meals.
Myth: I need to have a kitchen or place to prepare the food I buy with CalFresh benefits.
FACT: You can receive CalFresh even if you do not have a place to prepare food. Some soup kitchens, homeless shelters and Meals-On-Wheels accept CalFresh.