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How long will the increase in food stamps last in California?

California has announced historic increases to CalFresh benefit amounts. How long will the increase last for the 4.3 million beneficiaries?

SNAP es uno de los principales programas de ayuda alimentaria. Te explicamos cuál es el salario máximo para calificar en California.
Chris McGrathGetty Images

Starting 1 October, state food stamp or SNAP benefit programs began to see increases in payment amounts. In California, this means that those receiving CalFresh benefits will see a sustained increase in their benefits.

For many in the Golden State, this is the first increase in benefits since 1975. The change at the federal level results in a twenty-five percent increase for CalFresh beneficiaries. Recently the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported historic increases in the Consumer Price Index for food. Overall, prices have increased more than 5.3 percent over the last year for some basics including dairy products. 

CalFresh: Old and increased benefit amount

Number in HouseholdOld Benefit AmountNew Benefit Amount
Additional person+$153+$188

Source: Cal Fresh

Those who receive food aid through CalFresh have had to do more with less over the last year as prices have continued their upward climb.

When will the increase be applied to benefits?

Those receiving CalFresh benefits should have seen the increase reflected in their October payment.

In early October, the Assistant Director of Employment and Benefits Services for the County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency, Margareta Hodzic spoke described the impact the increase would have on families and the local economy saying: “Increasing these benefits is not only critical to reducing hunger and improving the health of our community, but it is also important to restoring our local economy.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which oversees the SNAP program at the federal level has shown that around $1.79 is generated in economic benefits for every $1 distributed through CalFresh/SNAP.

What prompted the federal SNAP benefit increase? 

One of the measures included in the 2018 Farm Bill was an evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, which SNAP benefit amounts are based on. The USDA completed the evaluation this summer and found that food prices had completely outpaced benefit amounts. Many researchers had raised this issue, with various studies showing that some families exhaust their benefits within the first week of their issuance.

SNAP or CalFresh benefits are limited in what they can cover. With such limitations, it was easy for researchers to show that the benefits were too low since families cannot use the payments to cover other household expenses.

What can't you buy with CalFresh benefits?

Many have criticized the limitation of the benefits as overly strict and humiliating. CalFresh benefits cannot be used to purchase "any food that will be eaten or heated in the store."

In his new show, The Problem, political satirist Jon Stewart highlighted the double standards that exist for poor people in comparing so corporations who have received billions in bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic.

Other common items that cannot be purchased with SNAP/CalFresh benefits include cleaning products, vitamins, and pet food.

Full screen

Corporations can use bailout money to pay their already wealthy CEOs if they feel like it. But god forbid a poor person finds their way to a salad bar's heat lamp pot roast.

Jon Stewart