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Learn about public benefits at the state level for immigrants in California

The state of California has various social assistance programs to which immigrants can apply.

In addition to being the state with the largest number of immigrants, California is also one of the states that offers the highest public benefits and social or food assistance to its residents regardless of their immigration status. In this sense, California has programs such as the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), Medi-Cal, among others.

For example, CFAP is a food assistance program that provides food for qualified non-citizens who are not eligible for federal benefits. In fact, this is the first requirement to obtain CFAP benefits, not being eligible for food benefits at the federal level. In addition, other criteria include having lived in the country since before August 1996, having been a victim of abuse, among others.

However, beginning in fiscal year 2021-2022, all immigrants in California over the age of 55 are eligible for food benefits regardless of their immigration status. In this sense, adults over 55 do not need to meet other requirements such as having a Green Card.

CAPI is a program that provides cash to non-citizens with disabilities who are ineligible for federal benefits solely because of their immigration status. Also, some CAPI beneficiaries may access Medical benefits such as Medi-Cal, or food benefits such as CalFresh. For this benefit, other criteria are applied, such as income below the program standards, being over 65 years of age, and being blind or suffering from a disability.

In the case of Medi-Cal, the California government recently achieved its expansion, which will allow 286,000 undocumented seniors to receive comprehensive preventive care and other services for adults. This health care program is available to income-eligible adults age 50 and older. Medi-Cal does not consider immigration status as an eligibility criteria.

This modification of Medi-Cal was added to those made in 2016, when boys and girls under the age of 19 were allowed to be eligible for full benefits of the program, regardless of their status. And later, in January 2020, undocumented young adults ages 19 to 25 were added to the program's eligibility. The next step is that more adults, now ages 26-49, will now be eligible for Medi-Cal,

“These four expansions will ultimately result in all low-income Californians being able to access quality, affordable health care,” said Michelle Baass, Director of the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS).

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