California Department of Social Services

California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is the state agency that provides and distributes a number of social programs including subsistence payments for low-income families. The social services department in California obtains its funding from federal and state sources. CDSS manages the CalFresh, CalWORKs and the school meal programs, which provide the neediest California residents and families with food, cash and other benefits. For comprehensive information about the assistance programs in California, including how to apply for benefits successfully and the eligibility requirements to qualify, download our complimentary guide.

CalFresh in California

The CalFresh program is California’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is informally known as food stamps nationally. The California Department of Social Services operates this program to provide food benefits to low-income households on a monthly basis. CalFresh enables families to purchase enough food to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet. The amount of CalFresh benefits a person can receive depends upon the size of the family, the household income and expenses such as rent or mortgage payments and utility fees.

CalFresh has mandatory eligibility requirements that petitioners must meet when applying for food assistance to qualify for vouchers. The social services department in California will consider factors like citizenship status, residency, income and personal factors when determining the eligibility of an applying household. Since there are a few different types of food assistance programs such as in cases of emergency, requisites to qualify can vary.

The California Department of Social Services issues food benefits on a monthly basis. CalFresh benefits are issued by means of an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which looks like credit or debit card. The CalFresh EBT card can be used to purchase certain food products at specific stores and farmer’s markets. READ MORE

CalWORKs in California

CalWORKs is a public welfare program that provides monetary assistance and services to eligible California families with children living at home. The social services department in California provides these benefits in all 58 counties in the state through local county welfare divisions. Low-income families that meet the eligibility requirements for cash assistance can enroll in the program and receive aid for essential items such as food, housing, utilities, medical assistance or clothing. In addition to financial compensation, CalWORKs provides beneficiaries with additional benefits to help them become independent from welfare assistance.

CalWORKs eligibility depends on a number of requirements such as citizenship or legal permanent residency status, income, resources and age. The California Department of Social Services assesses each application to determine on an individual basis. Moreover, those enrolled in CalWORKs will need to continue to qualify for benefits by participating in work activities in some cases unless exempt due to a qualifying factor, such as having a disability.

Approved beneficiaries will receive a monetary payment each month to help pay for your necessary expenses. How much the California Department of Social Services will pay will depend on a number of factors. The CalWORKs benefits program takes into consideration how many eligible people there are in the applying household and any special needs those family members may have. The social services department in California also considers countable household income. READ MORE

California’s School Breakfast Program and School Lunch Program

California Department of Social Services operates the federally funded School Breakfast Program to help schools and residential child care institutions to provide nutritionally balanced breakfasts for children at a reasonable cost. California’s School Breakfast Program is administered by the California Department of Education. To receive a free or reduced price morning meal, petitioners will need to meet the eligibility requirements for the School Breakfast Program.

CDSS also oversees the U.S. National School Lunch Program, which is a federally funded assisted meal program. The social services department in California facilitates the operation of this program throughout public and non-profit private schools as well as residential child care institutions. The School Lunch Program provides healthy, low-cost or free lunch meals to children on a daily basis. Children benefit from this program because the meals provided contain one-third of the recommended daily allowance of necessary nutrients. Parents benefit from this program because it allows them the convenience of giving their children a balanced lunch at a reasonable price. Schools also benefit because a balanced diet enhances children’s learning abilities by promoting physical and mental health. The lunch program is open to all children who are enrolled in school, but free or reduced price midday meals are available only to those who qualify for benefits.

In addition to providing children with a healthy breakfast and lunch during school, the California Department of Social Services also sees that these children receive a meal during summer breaks. The Summer Food Service Program continues the benefits initiated during the academic year with balanced meals, typically in locations central to schools and other community landmarks. The social services department in California encourages agencies to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. READ MORE


What Kind of Assistance Does the Department of Social Services Offer?

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides various types of assistance benefits to residents of the state. Through the CDSS, individuals and families can obtain temporary cash assistance, food assistance and more. Furthermore, applicants who are eligible for the benefits of one CDSS program will often qualify for the assistance benefits of another. Find out everything you need to know about the services and benefits provided by the Department of Social Services by downloading our helpful CDSS guide.


Who Can Benefit From California’s Department of Social Services?

To receive benefits from the CDSS, you and your family will need to meet certain eligibility criteria. The criteria used to determine an applicant’s eligibility typically include income, age, resources and citizenship, among other factors. Find out if you qualify for California DSS assistance benefits here.