Work Rules Tighten for Students on CalFresh

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
CalFresh regularly holds outreach events on college campuses to make students aware of the program and help them through the complex application process. Photo Credit: CalFresh

The pandemic-era exemptions allowing many students access to CalFresh food benefits without having to work 20 hours a week expired in June, leaving many students in the lurch.

CalFresh benefits range from $23 to $281 a month for a one-person household, and data showed 127,000 students were enrolled before the pandemic.

Carrie Welton, senior director of policy and advocacy at the Institute for College Access and Success, said the work requirements discourage CalFresh recipients from enrolling and make it much harder for low-income students to devote themselves to their studies.

“The student rules were implemented in the ’70s over fears that students who looked temporarily poor because they were enrolled in college but were still receiving support from their parents could get access to CalFresh,” Welton explained. ” There’s actually no data to suggest that is the case. ”

In June, Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., introduced the EATS Act of 2023, which would count college enrollment as satisfying the work requirement for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which was renamed CalFresh in the Golden State. However, the bill faces an uphill battle with Republicans who recently made expansion of work requirements for food benefits a condition of raising the debt ceiling.

Brandi Simonaro, co-director for the Cal Fresh Outreach Higher Ed Project, a statewide initiative based at California State University-Chico, said the government should make it easier for low-income students to afford the basics while in college.

“We really see it as employment and training for students to attend college, expand their skills, get that additional training for future jobs to expand their income and contribute more to society as a whole,” Simonaro asserted. “So we definitely see it as satisfying that requirement. ”

study from Georgetown University found people who earn an associate’s degree make 25% more over their lifetimes compared with people who only have a high school diploma, and those with a bachelor’s degree earn on average 75% more.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.