Facilitating CalFresh Eligibility and Enrollment for SSI Recipients

Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations
County Welfare Directors Association of California
Social Interest Solutions

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients in California are not eligible for CalFresh (California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). Instead, California has historically opted to support food expenses for the SSI population through the state share of the SSI payment, a policy decision known as “cash-out.” California is now reexamining this policy and considering changes to allow SSI recipients who meet income and other requirements to be eligible for CalFresh benefits.

If California decides to end cash-out, it will be important to consider how existing processes and systems can be leveraged and streamlined to facilitate CalFresh eligibility determination and enrollment for as many as 1.3 million existing SSI recipients. California counties have well-established systems and processes to determine CalFresh eligibility and manage ongoing caseloads using their State Automated Welfare System (SAWS). Furthermore, the state has existing access to a rich data file on SSI recipients through the Social Security Administration (SSA) State Data Exchange (SDX), and a subset of that data is already captured by state and county systems.

However, given California’s number of SSI recipients, it will be challenging from a workload perspective to collect CalFresh applications for the entire population and expediently process them all at once. Therefore, California may want to assess opportunities to streamline the application and enrollment process. This report assesses solutions for maximizing enrollment of eligible SSI recipients into CalFresh, should California decide to end cash-out. The paper discusses:

  • The California cash-out policy
  • Current enrollment processes and systems for SSI and CalFresh
  • Models for streamlining enrollment across programs
  • Options for facilitating CalFresh enrollment for SSI recipients in California
  • Key policy, technology and other considerations

The findings were informed by interviews and workgroup sessions with more than 30 California state and county program officials, national and state advocates, and representatives from efforts in other states to connect the SSI population with nutrition assistance.

For the complete report, download the PDF.

UPDATE: In May 2017, the California Department of Social Services received a federal waiver to implement the Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP) beginning October 2. This will streamline the application process to help elderly and disabled people more easily access food stamps. Download the SIS paper to learn more about ESAP.