The Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system provides public assistance benefits to California residents. Benefits are deposited electronically onto a Golden State Advantage EBT card that allows you to access your benefits each month. The California Department of Social Services administers food assistance through CalFresh and cash assistance through the CalWORKs program. Both benefits are deposited onto the same EBT card. If you're approved for either program, an EBT card is issued and mailed to you.
Apply for Benefits Online
Visit the website BenefitsCal.com to access your county's online application for public assistance benefits. When you select your county and click "go," you'll be automatically directed to your county's e-benefits website. More than half of the counties in California apply through C4Yourself.com. The rest of the counties use MyBenefitsCalWIN.org or require residents to apply through the website of the county's department of social services or similar agency. Once you determine which site you'll use, register for an account by entering your name and creating a username and password. If you apply online, you can log back in and check the status of your application. Applications can take up to 30 days to process.
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Apply for Benefits in Person
You can apply for CalFresh and CalWorks in person by visiting your county's DSS office. If you aren't sure where the office is in your area, you can call 877-847-3663. You can also download and print the CalFresh application found on the California Department of Social Services website. The application is only for CalFresh.
Although you can apply for both CalWorks and CalFresh online at the same time, you'll need to submit a separate paper application for CalWorks if you want to apply in person.
EBT Retailers and ATMs
There are numerous retailers that accept CalFresh benefits, including grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies. You can use your card to purchase any items defined as food under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008. These items include meat, cheese, bread, produce, frozen dinners, candy, cake, soda, juice and coffee. However, you can't buy alcohol, tobacco or hot prepared foods. Find a retailer in your area using the SNAP Retailer Locator tool on the USDA Food and Nutrition Service site.
If you're receiving cash through CalWorks, you can use your EBT card to make purchases or withdraw cash at any ATM displaying the Quest logo. According to the California EBT Project, you can access funds at over 54,000 ATMs in California as of 2015. There are no restrictions on how your cash benefits are used. You can purchase clothing, buy food or pay bills. Use the Where Can I Use My EBT Card feature on the California EBT client website by entering your zip code or county.
EBT Card Replacement
If your EBT card is ever lost or damaged, contact your local county department of social services or the California EBT Cardholder Customer Service Center at 877-328-9677. If your card was stolen or you suspect unauthorized transactions on your card, contact the EBT customer service center immediately, not your county. If your cash benefits were used without your permission, you'll need to file a police report as well.