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Sonoma County CalFresh

Frequently Asked Questions

I have been approved for CalFresh, how do I…?

Q. When can I start using my EBT card?

Q. Where can I use my CalFresh EBT card?

Q. Can I check the balance of my EBT account online?

Q. What do I do if I think my account balance is wrong?

Q. How do I replace a damaged, lost, or stolen EBT card?

Q. Will my benefits be replaced if someone steals these benefits from my EBT card?

Q. What if my card doesn't work?

Q. What if I forget my PIN number?

Q. Why does my neighbor/friend receive more CalFresh than I do?

Q. Can I use my electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card in another state?

Q. Do I have to use all my CalFresh benefits up in the month that I receive them, or will they be carried over into the next month?

Q. When are CalFresh benefits put into my account?

Q. Can I let someone else use my EBT Card to buy items for me?

Q. Can a retailer charge me a fee for making a purchase with my EBT food benefits?

Q. What kinds of changes in my status do I need to report to the CalFresh Office?

Q. I got a recertification notice in the mail. What do I do?

Q. If I get too much, will I have to repay my extra CalFresh benefits?

Q. My CalFresh allocation for the month is used up, and I’m out of food. What can I do?

Q. When can I start using my EBT card?

A. You can start using your card a soon as you have a PIN number and there are benefits in your account. To find out if you have benefits in your account, go to: https://www.ebt.ca.gov/caebtclient/usebenefit.jsp or call (877) 328-9677.

Q. Where can I use my CalFresh EBT card?

A. Many grocery and convenience stores and even some farmers markets accept EBT cards for food items. If you aren't’t sure, ask. For an online list of retailers in your area that accept EBT cards, go to: https://www.ebt.ca.gov/caebtclient/usebenefit.jsp.

Q. Can I check the balance of my EBT account online?

A. Yes. Go to: https://www.ebt.ca.gov/caebtclient/usebenefit.jsp. You may also look at your last receipt, which should show your balance.

Q. What do I do if I think my account balance is wrong?

A. Call (877) 328-9677.

Q. How do I replace a damaged, lost, or stolen EBT card?

A. You must report the lost, stolen, or damaged card as soon as the problem has been discovered. Once it is reported, the card will be deactivated so that the benefits cannot be used by anyone else. You will not be charged for a replacement card. A new card will be issued to you in one to three working days. Or you may come into the office to replace your card. It is important to keep your PIN secret, so that nobody else can use your EBT card, even if it is lost or stolen. To report a lost, stolen or damaged card, call (877) 328-9677.

Q. Will my benefits be replaced if someone steals these benefits from my EBT card?

A. No. Your account can only be used with a valid card and PIN. Any transaction conducted with a valid card and PIN is your responsibility, even if the transaction was done without your permission or knowledge. Your benefits will not be replaced. That is why it is very important to protect the secrecy of your PIN. It should not be shared with anyone. It should never be written down on the card or on anything that is kept with the card. Never keep your Social Security Number with your EBT card or PIN. If you have lost your card or think someone knows your PIN, you should immediately call (877) 328-9677 to have your EBT card deactivated or to change your PIN.

Q. What if my card doesn't work?

A. You should first call the customer service number located on the back of your benefit card to verify if you are using the correct card. If customer service is unable to resolve your problem, you should contact your CalFresh worker. The customer service telephone number is (877) 328-9677.

Q. What if I forget my PIN number?

A.If you forget your PIN to access your account, or if you want to change the PIN for other reasons, there are two ways this can be done. You can go to a designated local county public assistance office that has PIN selection equipment and select another PIN, or you can call the toll-free customer service telephone number, (877) 328-9677, to select another PIN over the telephone. Either way, you will need to provide identifying information. When your PIN is changed, you will continue using your current EBT card; a new card will not be provided unless specifically requested.

Q. Why does my neighbor/friend receive more CalFresh than I do?

A. CalFresh allotments are derived from a formula which considers household size, earned and unearned income, shelter expenses, day care costs, child support payments, and in some cases, medical costs. Each allotment is specific to your individual household's needs.

Q. Can I use my electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card in another state?

A. EBT cards can be used in all States including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  EBT cards cannot be used in Puerto Rico.

Q. Do I have to use all my CalFresh benefits up in the month that I receive them, or will they be carried over into the next month?

A. Any benefits that you have remaining in your EBT account at the end of the month WILL be carried over into the next month. However, if you have not used your EBT card at all for one year, the State will permanently remove your CalFresh benefits from your EBT account.

Q. When are CalFresh benefits put into my account?

A. At the beginning of the month based on case number. For example, if your case number ends in a 3, your benefits are loaded on the 3rd day of the month.

Q. Can I let someone else use my EBT Card to buy items for me?

A. No. You are the only person who is allowed to use your card and PIN (password). It is illegal to let someone else use your card or benefits. You can ask your caseworker about setting up an Authorized Representative (AR), who will have access to your EBT food benefit and/or cash aid benefit account. The AR will have a separate card with his or her own account number and PIN. The EBT system is able to track which card is used to access your account.

Q. Can a retailer charge me a fee for making a purchase with my EBT food benefits?

A. No. Federal regulations prohibit any retailer from charging you a fee for using your CalFresh benefits.

Q. What kinds of changes in my status do I need to report to the CalFresh Office?

A. You must report any change in your status within 10 days. Changes that require mandatory reporting include: address changes, moving out of state, moving out of the county, and if you have no children in your home, any reduction of work hours to less than 20 hours per week (if you had been working before).

Q. I got a recertification notice in the mail. What do I do?

A. In California, most households are on a 12-month certification period. Some households with elderly or disabled members are on 24-month certification periods. To continue benefits, you must complete a recertification at the time the county schedules an appointment. Upon completion of your recertification, if you remain eligible, your benefits will continue uninterrupted.

Q. If I get too much, will I have to repay my extra CalFresh benefits?

A. Yes. When the CalFresh Office finds the mistake, it will recalculate your benefits and ask you to pay back the over-payment, even if the over-issuance was a result of an agency error. The CalFresh Agency may recoup the over-issuance by reducing the amount of your allotment until the over-issuance is repaid, by asking for payments on an an installment plan, or by intercepting money owed your family. That’s why it is important to report your circumstances accurately. For more information, see: The CalFresh Guide

Q. My CalFresh allocation for the month is used up, and I’m out of food. What can I do?

A. CalFresh are meant to supplement your existing food budget. Select the link here for a list of food banks in Sonoma County that may be able to help until your CalFresh allotment is replenished.

Q. I have a question that is not answered here. What do I do?

A. Call (877) 328-9677.