Do Food Stamps Roll Over in California? 4 Things to Know

This information is current as of April 8, 2022.

Suppose you’re interested in or already receiving food stamps in California. In that case, you might be asking, “Do food stamps rollover in California?”

Do food stamps SNAP EBT benefits roll over in California?

Food stamps in California do roll over month-to-month, but only for 12 months. So if you don’t use your card for over 135 days (approximately 4.5 months), the state has the right to block your access to food stamps. After 180 days of inactivity, you’ll need to call the county to reinstate your benefits. After one year of inactivity, your benefits will permanently expire.

This article will break down California food stamp laws, how food stamps roll over and for how long, and how you can avoid losing access to your benefits from inactivity.

Using Food Stamps in California

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-income families with a way to buy nutritious food. SNAP is distributed differently in each state, and in California, it’s called the CalFresh program.

Years ago, these benefits were given as “food stamps,” similar to coupons you could use to get groceries for free. Nowadays, SNAP benefits are given out on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card.

To use your card, you’ll need to go to a store that accepts EBT. Most major grocery stores and supermarkets accept EBT, which lets you buy fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, and cereal products.

Your EBT card will be automatically refilled every month, allowing you and your family to enjoy access to healthy food. However, when using your EBT card, there are a few things you need to know.

1.         California Has Unique Food Stamp Laws

2.         CA EBT Benefits Roll Over for 12 months

3.         CA EBT Benefits Can Be Suspended

4.         You Can Reinstate EBT Benefits

Let’s dive in.

1.    California Has Unique Food Stamp Laws

As we mentioned, SNAP is a federal program. This means that the U.S. government runs it. The government distributes the SNAP benefits (money) to each state. It then lets the states decide how they give these benefits to low-income residents.

California’s SNAP program, CalFresh, provides you with the Golden State Advantage EBT card that can be used in any 50 states, but California explicitly refills it. This means it works under regulations issued by CalFresh.

If you go by the federal SNAP page, you may be reading the wrong information. For example, the federal SNAP program says that your EBT benefits will be removed from your account if you don’t use any benefits for nine months. However, CalFresh benefits are removed if you don’t use them for only 4.5 months – that’s half the time!

When looking for information on your benefits, expiration dates, and income limits, always look at a California government site and not just the federal one. You can do this by sticking to websites that end in “”, like this one, as these are official California government sites.  

2.    CA EBT Benefits Roll Over for 12 months

If you’re using EBT to shop for groceries, you’ll likely use up the benefits by the end of the month. In some cases, you may need to buy less food or have food given to you by another source. If you have EBT benefits leftover one month, you don’t need to worry because they will roll over to the next month.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine that you get $200 on your EBT card every month. In January, you only use $150 because your relative brings you some extra groceries. Those $50 of new benefits will move over to February, and you’ll also be recharged your monthly benefit for February. That means you’ll have $250 to spend in February.

The important thing to know is that after 12 months, an unused benefit will be removed from your EBT account permanently. So if you are using your card monthly, it’s nearly impossible to have a benefit rollover for more than 12 months.

Generally speaking, your previous benefits will be used before new ones. So, for example, if you only spend $200 in February, the $50 leftover is from the February stipend, not January. That $50 will then move over to March, where it will only be one month old.

3.    CA EBT Benefits Can Be Suspended

CalFresh EBT benefits can be suspended temporarily or permanently. This happens when you stop making any purchases with your EBT card for a long time. The state of California has special terms for inactivity:

  • If your account hasn’t been used for 135 days (approximately 4.5 months), the account will be labeled inactive.
  • If your account hasn’t been used for 180 days (about six months), the account will be marked dormant. 
  • After 365 days (1 year) of inactivity, your card is called expunged.

By law, all SNAP recipients will receive a timely 10-day notice the month before their account becomes inactive, dormant, or expunged. However, these notices will not be sent if the EBT card has a zero balance.

4.    You Can Reinstate EBT Benefits

If you receive an inactivity or dormant notice, you don’t need to worry. For inactive CalFresh accounts, you can purchase with your EBT card, and your benefits will reactivate.

If you receive a dormant account notice, you will need to call your County Worker, who will reactivate your CalFresh benefits account. Unfortunately, dormant accounts cannot be reactivated by making a purchase.

The only time you will not be able to reinstate your benefits is if they have been expunged. Expunged benefits are permanently removed and cannot be restored. You may be able to get CalFresh benefits by reapplying, but you’ll have to start over with new benefits.

Asking for a Hearing

If your account has been expunged and you disagree with the county’s decision, you have the right to ask for a hearing. Hearings are where you can discuss your case and try to reverse the county’s decision. You will need to be present at the hearing or have someone represent you there. If you don’t want to go alone, you can bring a friend or family member.

Within 90 days of receiving the notice, you must do so to ask for a hearing. Your CalFresh benefits will stay the same while waiting for the hearing date.

To ask for a hearing, fill out page 4 of this PDF. Please make a copy of it and send it to your local CalFresh county office. Instead, you can also request a hearing by phone by calling 1-800-952-5253.

Keeping Track of Your Benefits

You can avoid inactivity, dormant, and expungement notices on your CalFresh account by using it at least once a month. Since these benefits are given to help low-income families purchase food, it should be beneficial to use the EBT card often.

By using your card and keeping track of your balance, you can ensure your benefits continue. Keep track of your balance easily online to stop worrying about having enough or not buying enough with your EBT card.

The Bottom Line

So, do food stamps rollover in California? Overall, you can rest easy knowing that your CalFresh benefits roll over month to month. They can continue rolling over for a full 12 months, but to have access to them, you’ll need to use your EBT card at least once every 4.5 months.

After 4.5 months (135 days) of inactivity, your CalFresh account will be inactive. You can purchase with your EBT card to reactivate it. After 180 days of inactivity, you’ll need to call your County Worker to reactivate your benefits. After a full year of inactivity, all your benefits will permanently expire.

CalFresh benefits are a great way to eat healthily and affordably. Be sure to keep track of your balance and use your card whenever you need it to keep your benefits active.

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