There’s a new way to apply for and keep your public benefits! As of September 27, 2021, BenefitsCal helps people with CalFresh, Medi-Cal, County Medical Services Program (CMSP), CalWORKs, General Assistance/Relief (GA/GR), and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI).
You can use BenefitsCal to:
- Apply and renew benefits
- Appoint an authorized representative
- Upload documents
- Report changes
- Contact your caseworker
- And more…
Read on for important details, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions.
When are BenefitsCal changes happening?
BenefitsCal is starting in phases depending on the county you live in. Here are the important details:
System downtime: For people in LA County, Your Benefits Now (YBN) will be unavailable starting on April 22, 2022 at 5pm. Visit this website for the latest status on system downtime.
*Tip: You can still access CalFresh applications at GetCalFresh, Medi-Cal applications at Covered California, and all other services by calling your county (search for phone number under “Apply by Phone” here). For Medi-Cal under new “accelerated enrollment” rules that can get you covered quickly, apply at Covered California.
- September 27, 2021 – 39 counties started to use BenefitsCal instead of the old website (C4Yourself). At the same time, county eligibility workers started using their new computer system (CalSAWS).
- April 25, 2022 – Los Angeles County will use BenefitsCal instead of the old website (Your Benefits Now, or YBN). County employees will continue to use CalSAWS.
- October 2022 to October 2023 – The remaining 18 counties in six waves will start using BenefitsCal instead of the old website (MyBenefits CalWIN). County employees will also start using CalSAWS. You may need to wait for these changes in your county:
- October 2022 (Wave 1) – Contra Costa, Placer & Yolo Counties
- February 2023 (Wave 2) – Santa Clara & Tulare Counties
- April 2023 (Wave 3) – Orange, Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties
- June 2023 (Wave 4) – San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Cruz & Solano Counties
- August 2023 (Wave 5) – Alameda, Fresno & Sonoma Counties
- October 2023 (Wave 6) – Sacramento, San Francisco & San Luis Obispo Counties
How can applicants and beneficiaries access BenefitsCal?
When you first visit BenefitsCal, click on the “Log In” button at the top right. That will take you to a page that looks like this:
Then click “Create Account.” After you enter your information, BenefitsCal will gather information about your case from the old websites (C4Yourself & Your Benefits Now). Your login information from the old websites will not work in BenefitsCal.
Between October 2022 and October 2023: If you live in one of the 18 counties making changes during this time, you have to wait for your county to start using BenefitsCal in the six waves above. Once your county makes the change, you can create an account in BenefitsCal. Your login information from MyBenefits CalWIN (MBCW) will not work in BenefitsCal.
*Tip: Check out these helpful YouTube videos on how to create an account, apply for benefits, report a change, upload documents, reset your password, and more! Until BenefitsCal creates videos in languages other than English, use YouTube’s subtitles to select another language.
*Tip: These Quick Reference Guides include screenshots and step-by-step instructions (in English only) on how to apply for benefits, request an appointment, upload documents, and more! We await CalSAWS translating these guides into other languages.
Do I need to answer all of the questions in BenefitsCal?
Most BenefitsCal questions are not required. They are optional unless they include “(required)” in the question. Click the NEXT button to skip optional questions and continue with your application or request.
How can application assisters & community-based organizations (CBOs) access BenefitsCal?
BenefitsCal functionality for application assisters and CBOs will be limited at first. Assisters/CBOs can submit applications, upload documents, export & view reports (see more about this below), and check limited application status information (but not whether applications were approved or denied). More features will be added soon, possibly in September 2022. Assister/CBO accounts will allow users to handle applications in all 58 counties by October 2023.
What if I do not already have a CBO account?
If you do not have an account, you can request a new BenefitsCal login by selecting “Log In” and then “Register Your CBO Account.” Counties will approve CBO registrations. For more information, check out this YouTube video and this reference guide for CBOs.
How does a CBO account in BenefitsCal work?
CBO accounts in BenefitsCal will be set up with a “manager” role. This CBO Manager Account will be able to create assister accounts/logins for other people in their organization. They can also track and manage applications developed by the assister accounts that they create.
There is no limit to the number of CBO Manager Accounts and assister accounts, but CBOs should be strategic in how many accounts they set up. Organizations with multiple locations can choose to have combined or separate accounts. Counties are expected to have their own processes for managing and monitoring CBO Manager Account creation (to prevent duplication).
What should I do if I have a problem with BenefitsCal?
Applicants should contact their county for help. Find your county’s contact information here and here. You can also report problems directly to BenefitsCal by submitting an online inquiry: visit CalSAWS.org, select the green “Ask CalSAWS” button at the top right, and submit your information.
BenefitsCal and CalSAWS have set up a “Command Center” to support county employees. Counties can contact office-level support staff, Change Network Champions, Technical Points of Contact, and other resources to get answers to functional questions and report challenges.
You can also contact an advocacy organization to help you navigate an issue and get a resolution. Here is a list of organizations and contacts that may be able to help you:
- Health Consumer Alliance (for Medi-Cal): 1-888‑804‑3536
- Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations: 916-736-0616
- LawHelp California (find a legal organization to help with your benefits)
- California Association of Food Banks (Stephanie Nishio): 510-435-8090
What are some limitations with BenefitsCal?
BenefitsCal will get better with time. Some features are still unavailable. Advocates are pressing BenefitsCal to fix them soon. Here are some things to watch out for:
- BenefitsCal sometimes asks questions that are not needed. Especially for questions about immigration status and people not applying for benefits, some questions are irrelevant. You can click the “NEXT” button to skip optional and irrelevant questions.
- BenefitsCal questions are translated into 12 languages. In Spring 2022, BenefitsCal will add Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Japanese, Mien, Punjabi, Thai, and Ukrainian translations. Until translations are available, applicants should contact their counties for language assistance. (County contact information here and here).
- While the questions will be available in multiple languages, BenefitsCal only allows consumers and assisters to enter English-language letters and characters into the system. BenefitsCal will not accept other letters and characters (ñ, é, ó, Հայերեն, 한국어, русский, 中文, Tiếng Việt, ລາວ, etc.). In BenefitsCal, you will need to use English-language letters.
- The “Do I Qualify” and “See If You Qualify” chatbot screener may ask unnecessary questions. Remember you can always submit an application – even if the chatbot screener says you may not qualify.
- At different parts of the application, BenefitsCal will ask you for personal information, like your race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. These questions are optional. Your answers do not impact your eligibility for benefits. Counties will only use the answers for civil rights statistics.
- If you are only applying for Medi-Cal, you do not need to confirm that your shots (vaccines) are up to date. This is only required for CalWORKs applicants under age 6. BenefitsCal will remove the question for Medi-Cal applicants soon.
- If you are only applying for Medi-Cal, you do not need to answer the question “Is anyone on strike?” This question should not be in the application.
- BenefitsCal may ask you to upload documents that are not required, including for people that are not applying for benefits. If you are nervous about submitting documents, you can ask county workers to confirm which documents are required to process your application.
- BenefitsCal did not develop an integrated Release of Information (ROI) for assister/CBO accounts to access case information. This is a pending request that will be resolved later in 2022. Since there is no way to grant permissions within BenefitsCal, only limited information is available on the website for assisters/CBOs. You can still have applicants sign an ROI and send it to the county to get information directly from a county eligibility worker.
If there are other suggestions you have for improving the BenefitsCal website, you can submit them through the BenefitsCal website under “share your feedback” at https://benefitscal.com/public/HPAOS.
Where can advocates learn more about BenefitsCal and CalSAWS?
Consumer advocates have been working for years to make BenefitsCal work. And we still have a lot of work to do! If you want to join our effort, check out this advocate toolkit and recorded training. For more information, please contact David Kane at dkane[at]wclp.org or the CalSAWS Advocate Co-Leads:
Jennifer Tracy: jennifer[at]jenntracy.com
Mia Keeley: mkeeley[at]cccco.edu
Logan Van Der Wolf: lvanderwolf[at]lalgbtcenter.org