Food Stamps: Thousands Just Scored an Extra $20 in SNAP Benefits — Did You?

A cute boy is picking out vegetables with his mom at the farmers' market.
Aleksandar Jankovic / Getty Images

If you found that your latest food stamps payment included an extra $20, it’s probably not a mistake. Depending on where you live, that $20 (actually $20.01) is included in payments to households that meet the right eligibility criteria.

The credit is available to certain California households that qualify for food stamps, formally known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In 2014, the state’s SNAP agency, CalFresh, began issuing State Utility Assistance Subsidy (SUAS) benefits to qualifying households.

Under this program, the state can increase food benefits for certain SNAP households if they also qualify for heating assistance under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

According to the State of California Health & Human Services department, the SUAS benefit is only given once in a certification period. To qualify, households must meet the following requirements:

  • Do not have utility bills separate from rent/mortgage
  • Are not already getting the maximum CalFresh benefit for their household size
  • Are not getting the maximum shelter deduction
  • Are not already receiving an increased benefit due to the Homeless Shelter Deduction
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If you qualify, an annual payment of $20.01 will be transferred into your Electronic Benefit Transaction (EBT) account. The SUAS benefit can be used towards food or cash purchases. At your next certification, if you no longer are an eligible household you will no longer receive the $20.01 SUAS benefit.

To receive CalFresh benefits, you must first pass an income and resource test and meet work requirements. For most households, the monthly gross income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. 

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To apply for CalFresh benefits, fill out the California Department of Social Services online application at or call the CalFresh Info Line at 877-847-3663. Once approved, the California Department of Social Services will mail a CalFresh EBT card to your address. The card is linked to your CalFresh account and can be used online or swiped at the register like a debit card.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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