Can You Receive Unemployment & Food Stamps in California?

CalFresh participants receive an electronic debit card to use for food.
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California unemployment insurance and CalFresh -- formerly known as food stamps -- are both social welfare programs that provide benefits to low-income or out-of-work residents in the state. The programs have distinct eligibility requirements and mandate different ongoing activities for participants to remain eligible. You can receive both unemployement benefits and CalFresh at the same time, but it depends on your particular situation and the income of other individuals in your household.

California Unemployment Basics

Each state in the U.S. has an unemployment insurance program, but exact rules, requirements and benefit levels vary by location. In California, eligible individuals may receive a weekly benefit between $40 and $450 for a maximum of six months. The exactly weekly benefit amount depends on how much you earned in wages before you became unemployed. In order to qualify, you must have lost your job through no fault of your own and seek work on a regular basis.

CalFresh Basics

CalFresh is the California division of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It allows low-income individuals and families monthly benefits that can be used to purchase foods at most grocery stores and markets. To qualify for benefits, gross household income cannot exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level and net income cannot exceed 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The CalFresh benefit level varies based on household size and income, but most households receive more than $200 a month.

Income Limitations

It's possible to qualify for both unemployment benefits and CalFresh. However, if others in your household earn higher wages, you may not pass the gross income eligibility test. As of publication, 200 percent of the poverty level is $486.50 a week for a household of one and $655.50 a week for a household of two. A single individual on unemployment receiving the maximum weekly benefit of $450 passes the gross income test for CalFresh. However, if there is a second person in the household earning wages that makes household income exceed $655.50, the family is no longer eligible.

Other Requirements

CalFresh requires participants to meet some work requirements. Exact standards vary by county, but participants may need to complete employment and training activities, like searching for work or taking classes. These activities do not necessarily conflict with unemployment benefit requirements. In fact, California's unemployment benefit system requires claimants to search for work and encourages training, so the requirements for the two programs go hand in hand. However, you may need to speak with an unemployment department representative after beginning any school or training to ensure the classes don't conflict with your availability to work.