California Makes Statewide Expansion to Mobile and Online Food Stamp Application

Published: June 10, 2019

CALIFORNIAHealth CareHealth ServicesInformation TechnologySocial ServicesSOCIAL SERVICES, DEPARTMENT OF (CALIFORNIA)Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

All Californians are now eligible to apply for SNAP benefits online on their cellphone or desktop, thanks to the statewide expansion of GetCalFresh.

On June 1, GetCalFresh, the process by which to apply online for food stamps in California, went statewide. Californians in all 58 counties are now able to use this web tool on their mobile device or desktop to access a simplified application process for federal nutrition benefits. The tool is a collaboration between the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) and Code for America (CfA), a digital government non-profit. The partnership is aimed at expanding participation in CalFresh, the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrollment process.  

The expansion was announced on May 31, the last day of the eighth annual CfA Summit in Oakland and just one day before GetCalFresh was set to go statewide. It is the culmination of a two-year, $3.6 million contract awarded in July 2017 to the non-profit to make the program available across the entire state. However, GetCalFresh was originally created six years ago to replace the state’s tedious, paper-based food stamp system. After being piloted successfully in San Francisco, it was quickly expanded to 36 other counties.

The expansion of the online application tool also coincides with the expansion of CalFresh eligibility to approximately 500,000 older adults and people with disabilities. This is the result of the state’s decision to expand the program’s eligibility to include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. “The expansion of CalFresh will make it easier for hundreds of thousands of Californians to get the healthy food they need, and GetCalFresh going statewide makes it much easier for all Californians to apply,” said Kim McCoy Wade, chief of the CalFresh Branch of DSS.

Since CfA began developing the tool, application time has decreased substantially from 45 minutes to 10 minutes. Users can also access various features on their mobile device or desktop, including managing important documents and receiving text message updates and reminders. While the tool has been successful in driving up application rates, the next step for DSS and CfA is simplifying the interview process. Nearly 30 percent of applicants reported that missing interviews set by the state caused them to be denied SNAP benefits. 

However, officials from both DSS and CfA are confident they can tackle the interview issue successfully. Jennifer Pahlka, CfA founder and Executive Director, believes their collaboration “is a great example of closing a communication gap in the program and continually streamlining the application process and making the benefit more and more accessible to the people who really need it.”

Source: StateScoop