Seniors and People with Disabilities who Receive SSI Can Apply for CalFresh in Summer 2019

Due to a policy change included in the 2018-2019 state budget (Assembly Bill 1811, the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Human Services Omnibus Trailer Bill), seniors and people with disabilities who receive SSI can be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits for the first time in over 40 years, starting June 1, 2019. Up until now, Californians who receive SSI have been categorically ineligible for CalFresh benefits. The expansion will be particularly important for seniors age 60 and older, who represent more than half of the 1.2 million low-income Californians who receive SSI to help meet their basic needs.

More resources about this change

Improving Access to SSI in California

California has the highest rate of senior poverty in the nation. Older adults are struggling to make ends meet and stay in their homes, especially in the parts of California with the highest housing costs. Homelessness among California seniors is on the rise.

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, administered by the Social Security Administration, can be an economic lifeline for low-income older adults as it provides a very basic income to pay for shelter, food, and other necessities. However, the program is historically under-enrolled.

California is home to over 1.2 million SSI recipients. Seniors receiving SSI, as well as service providers who are helping them, often have a hard time understanding SSI eligibility rules that lead to reductions and terminations. Those currently receiving SSI frequently experience problems when trying to appeal decisions that reduce or terminate their benefits, because they cannot navigate Social Security’s burdensome and complex appeal process.

Justice in Aging is working to increase access to and utilization of SSI benefits among older adults in California, and to build a strong coalition of statewide advocates who are informed about and trained in the details of the SSI program, and interested in working toward systemic improvements. These efforts will both deepen our impact in California and help inform our efforts to fight senior poverty throughout the nation.

Resources for SSI advocates

  • SSI California Fact Sheet – Learn who SSI helps in California by the numbers and get an overview of improvement efforts.
  • SSI Basics training  – Learn the basics of SSI in this free webinar, geared to new legal services advocates and other community advocates
  • Hart v. Berryhill  – Keep up-to-date on the class action challenging inadequate exams from a Social Security doctor who operated in the Bay Area
  • Californians for SSI  – Justice in Aging is a part of the statewide CA4SSI coalition advocating for improved SSI policies at the state and federal level

Contact for SSI advocates

If you have any questions about our SSI work in California, please contact Trinh Phan at tphan@justiceinaging.org.