CalFresh recipients now able to use EBT cards to buy groceries online via Amazon, Walmart

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A sign noting the acceptance of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards that are used by state welfare departments to issue benefits is displayed at a grocery store on Dec. 4, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A sign noting the acceptance of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards that are used by state welfare departments to issue benefits is displayed at a grocery store on Dec. 4, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

COVID-19 has made it challenging for some people to put food on the table for their families, but California residents who receive CalFresh benefits are now able to use EBT cards to purchase food online from two large retailers.

As of Tuesday, CalFresh EBT cardholders can buy food with their cards through Amazon and Walmart. Before the coronavirus pandemic, CalFresh EBT debits cards were accepted at grocery stores and farmers’ markets across the state. But in March the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) requested a waiver from the government in order to allow CalFresh recipients to buy their groceries online.

“This new functionality will help ensure that Californians, particularly those that are most vulnerable and with the most need, have access to healthy food while staying home and staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kim Johnson, director of CDSS. 

While the EBT cards can only be used online for purchases at Walmart and Amazon, Johnson said the plan is to bring in additional retailers as soon as possible.

The CalFresh program provides food benefits to help low-income individuals and families afford more nutritious food and healthier options. CalFresh is also available to older adults and people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income. Individual benefits range from $16-$194 per month.

Johnson said extra food benefits, called Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), are now also being offered to children who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals at school. Eligible families will receive up to $365 in total benefits per child for food and groceries.

“With schools currently closed throughout California, many students have lost access to meals they normally receive on campus,” Johnson said. “These additional food benefits will help families put food on the table during this time of great need.”

Families with children who are not receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits can apply online to determine eligibility in late May and before June 30, 2020. P-EBT benefits will be retroactive regardless of when families applies.

To apply for CalFresh benefits visit dpss.lacounty.gov or getcalfresh.org, or call 866-613-3777.

For more information on P-EBT benefits, visit cdss.ca.gov/pandemic-ebt.

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