California Health and Human Services Agencies Successfully Issue CalFresh Food Assistance Early in the Face of Government Shutdown
Had county HHS and state agencies not acted quickly, millions of vulnerable Californians could have gone without food assistance in February.

Press release

SACRAMENTO – Tomorrow, January 16, millions of Californians will receive their February allotment of CalFresh food assistance benefits, which would normally be released starting February 1. This was an enormous, $550 million undertaking by the state and county human services agencies and our automation system staff that came together in less than a week. It is the first early issuance in California’s history.

As a result of congressional inaction and the continued government shutdown, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not received an appropriation for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as CalFresh in California) past January 20, 2019.

Last Tuesday evening, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) received federal guidance from the USDA stating that in order to avoid any loss of SNAP benefits, states must issue February benefits early, before January 20. Together, counties, automation system staff and our partners at CDSS immediately made automation changes and took other necessary steps to ensure that the federal deadline to distribute February Calfresh funding was met.

“Californians receiving CalFresh deserve better than to bear the brunt of an avoidable government shutdown,” said Frank Mecca, executive Director of CWDA. “I cannot say enough how impressed we are with the counties, our automation systems and the state for acting so quickly to make sure our customers receive food assistance for February.”

Californians who rely on CalFresh assistance can be assured that they will not be without their benefits for February. However, it will be important for clients to understand that these benefits are intended to be used through the month of February, even though they are receiving them in mid-January. Counties are communicating this with their CalFresh clients to alleviate any confusion.

Should the federal shutdown continue beyond February, Californians who utilize CalFresh food assistance could be negatively affected for March benefits.

“This is a worst-case-scenario that can and should be avoided at all costs,” Mecca said. “We are hopeful that congress will take immediate action to end the government shutdown, but counties will continue to prepare for any further impacts to Californians in need of CalFresh assistance.”

CalFresh Early Issuance Details:

  • Beginning Wednesday, January 16, 2019, most CalFresh clients will begin receiving their February benefits on their EBT cards. Note that these are not extra benefits – they are regular benefits for February and customers receiving benefits early should plan for these benefits to last through the month of February.
  • Existing CalFresh recipients who are required to recertify their eligibility in the month of January and who complete their recertification after January 15, 2019, will have their benefits issued on or after February 1, 2019, drawing upon limited federal reserve funds.
  • Individuals and families who apply for benefits after January 15, 2019, will also have their February benefits issued on or after February 1, 2019, drawing upon limited federal reserve funds.
  • Despite the federal shutdown, county offices are and will remain open for new enrollments and case management for existing customers without service disruptions.