California Department of Social Services FAQs

    • How do I apply for public assistance benefits in California?

You can submit an application for public assistance benefits through your local California county human services agency. You may request an application in person, by phone, by fax, by mail or online for most programs.

    • Is it possible to download and complete an application for public assistance from the California Department of Social Services website?

It is but for some benefits, you must return the application by mail or in person. A number of counties throughout California are now accepting online applications for assistance programs.

    • Will I need to have an interview to receive California welfare assistance?

In some cases, you will need to have a follow-up interview with a program official after submitting a request for benefits. The CalFresh program is one of the programs that require an in person or phone interview.

    • I requested a state hearing. Will my public assistance benefits stay the same?

In California, if you requested a state hearing because you received a notice of action (NOA) that states your benefits are going to be reduced or stopped, you may continue receiving them until the hearing date, providing you files for your hearing before the final date on the NOA.

    • I had a state hearing and I do not agree with the decision. How can I request a rehearing?

If you do not agree with the decision may at your California state appeal and you would like another hearing, then you may request a judicial review within 30 days from the time you receive your decision. When you make your request for a rehearing, your need to state the date you received your decision and explain why you do not agree with it. If you wish, you may present additional information and evidence to support your request. If you do so, you must explain why this evidence was not presented before and how it might change the appeal decision. To request another hearing, send a written request to the California Department of Social Services Rehearing Unit.

    • What can I do if the county is not complying with the judge’s decision from my state hearing?

If this is the case, you have 30 days to contact your nearest regional office.

    • Does California offer a food stamps program?

The food stamps program in California goes by the name CalFresh. It provides the same benefits as the national requirements dictate as well as those exclusive to the state’s policies. Find out more about enrolling in the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in our in-depth guide.

    • Can I purchase energy drinks with my CalFresh EBT card?

You can determine the eligibility of an energy drink for EBT purchase by looking at the label. To be eligible as a food item, the drink must have a nutrition facts label, no a supplement facts label.

    • Can bottle deposits (CRV) be paid with EBT food benefits in California?

CalFresh EBT food benefits will cover the full cost of drinks in returnable bottles as long as they are otherwise an eligible product and the price includes a specific bottle deposit.

    • Can I use CalFresh to by household items such as soap, detergent and bathroom tissue?

No, you can only use your food stamp benefit to purchase foods for your household members to eat or seeds and plants that will produce food for your household members to eat. However, pet food is not eligible for purchase with CalFresh benefits.

    • How can I find out if my children are eligible for any of the three California breakfast and lunch programs?

While most children enrolled in participating public and non-profit schools can enjoy a nutritious morning or midday through the school meal programs, those who require the meals at a reduced cost or free of charge can apply to the program. Households participating in other assistance programs like food stamps are automatically eligible for subsidized school meals.

    • What items must be part of a school lunch or breakfast?

School meals from one of the three California breakfast and lunch programs have to meet mandated federal nutrition standards. The meal plans must ben compliance with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

    • Must my child select everything that is offered?

The law permits children to decline any breakfast or lunch items they do not wish to eat.

    • My child cannot eat a regular breakfast or lunch due to special dietary needs, are school required to make menu substitutions?

Federal law requires that the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program make menus substitutions for children who are unable to eat the prepared meal because of a disability. In order to do so, the school must have a written statement signed by a licensed doctor that explains the disability and states which foods are to be omitted from your child’s diet as well as which foods should be substituted.

    • I am suppose to return to work, but I need child care for my kids and cannot afford it. What can I do?

If you are enrolled in CalWORKs and have work requirements or welfare-to-work activities, you must participate in to continue receiving compensation from the program, you may be eligible for child care subsidies through CalWORKs.

    • I take care of children but they are not mine naturally. Can I apply for assistance?

Certain foster parents and relative caretakers, such as grandparents, are eligible to receive cash and food benefits if they meet the other requirements of the program.

    • Can I receive benefits from multiple programs or do I need to pick and choose?

In many cases, petitioners can receive both food and cash benefits from a combination of programs. In fact, with the enrollment of some programs, applicants are automatically enrolled in a supplemental program. Find out more about getting the most of government assistance in our comprehensive guide.

  • I think someone I know is using state benefits fraudulently. What should I do?

If a program beneficiary is using cash or food assistance in a way that is illegal, such as selling vouchers and EBT cards, or has obtained benefits by lying about eligibility, you can report public assistance fraud to the state. In some cases, you may receive a reward if the case is proven.


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.