All Californians should be able to afford food, yet many struggle to meet this basic need. CalFresh, or SNAP as it’s known federally, provides around 5 million Californians with low incomes monthly benefits to purchase food. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CalFresh benefits were increased with emergency allotments (EA) of federal funds. In January alone, over $521 million additional dollars went out across California to CalFresh recipients. For reference, the total CalFresh issuance was about $1.36 billion in the same month. Emergency allotments accounted for nearly 40% of that amount.
Increased safety net supports, in particular EA, played an important role in reducing child poverty across California in recent years. However, this additional funding came to an end in March, which reduced families’ monthly CalFresh assistance by at least $95, and up to $258 in some cases, amid rising food prices. Already, 1 in 4 families nationwide are reporting increased levels of food insufficiency, according to recent Census data. This figure is on par with states that ended their participation in the EA program before the benefits expired federally. The loss of these additional food benefits is expected to undermine the recent decline in child poverty. With the federal Farm Bill up for reauthorization this year, federal policymakers should improve benefit adequacy in order to keep up the progress made in recent years. In addition, state leaders should take steps to raise the CalFresh monthly benefits and broaden eligibility to currently excluded Californians to avoid pushing millions of families over the hunger cliff.
Millions of Californians Receiving CalFresh Benefited from Emergency Allotments, January 2023
|Congressional District||Representative||Party||Estimated Average Number of Participants, 2022*||CalFresh Participants as a Share of the District Population||Estimated EA CalFresh Benefits in January 2023**||Rank (Highest to Lowest EA Benefit)|
|22||David G. Valadao||Republican||188,000||23.6%||$16,318,000||2|
* Figures are rounded to the nearest 100. Estimates do not sum to total due to rounding and excluded zip code data.
** Figures are rounded to the nearest 1,000. Estimates do not sum to total due to rounding and excluded zip code data.
Note: Values for California reflect the actual number of CalFresh participants from January to December 2022 and the total value of SNAP Emergency Allotment spent in January 2023. District-level estimates are based on zip code-level data for CalFresh recipients in December 2022. About 1% of zip code-level data are excluded due to hidden totals for de-identification purposes and special classifications of zip codes. Therefore, participation for some congressional districts may be underestimated. Data are for individuals receiving federal SNAP benefits and do not reflect individuals receiving state-funded assistance through the California Food Assistance Program.
Source: California Budget & Policy Center analysis of data from the Department of Social Services and US Census Bureau, American Community Survey