CalFresh extension of allotment increase and treatment of unemployment insurance and child tax credit

The 15% increase in CalFresh benefits because of COVID-19 has been extended by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to September 30, 2021.  The minimum benefit is increased to $19.  Income deductions are unchanged.

The $300 per week Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit is excluded as income or a resource.  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits for persons who were independent contractors or self-employed and lost employment because of COVID-19 count as income for CalFresh.  Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation that provides additional weeks of Unemployment Insurance counts as income for CalFresh.

Individual rebates and child tax credits under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 are excluded as income for CalFresh and do not count as a resource for 12 months.  (ACL I-24-21, April 1, 2021.)

Information from third-party payroll sources

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued new instructions regarding how counties should act on information received from a third-party payroll source.

Counties must verify all discrepant information received from Income Eligibility and Verification System (IEVS).  Clients are given the first opportunity at verification by the county sending the client a 10-day verification letter.  If the client fails or refuses to respond to the 10-day letter, the county must contact the appropriate income or benefits source.  CDSS considers employers and third-party payroll sources such as The Work Number to be appropriate sources for verifying IEVS discrepancies.  If the source verifies the IEVS discrepancy, the county must take action or document that no action is required.

For CalFresh, if the client does not respond and the income source does not provide sufficient information to verify a discrepant IEVS match, the county terminate CalFreh benefits.

For CalWORKs, if the income source does not provide sufficient information to verify a discrepant IEVS match, the client’s sworn statement is sufficient.  If the client fails to respond, the county must document the discrepancy for resolution with the client by the next semi-annual report or annul redetermination.  If the client does not provide sufficient information to resolve the discrepancy, the semi-annual report or annual redetermination will be considered incomplete and CalWORKs will be discontinued.

If an appropriate third-party payroll source provides information beyond what as reported in an IEVS match, the county must try to verify the discrepancy by sending the client a verification letter.  If the client fails or refuses to respond with sufficient information to resolve the discrepancy, the county must consider the income from the third-party payroll source to be verified and determine its effect on eligibility accordingly.  This includes any overpayments or overissuances for months the client did not report income over the Income Reporting Threshold, and any effect on current benefit amounts.

ACLs 16-118 and 19-08 regarding the Work Number being used in conjunction with, but not in lieu of, existing income and eligibility sources, is superseded.  (ACL 21-23, March 25, 2021.)

Treatment of the Golden State Stimulus and Golden State Grant for CalWORKs

Households receiving the California Earned Income Tax Credit for 2020 will receive a $600 one-time relief payment through the Golden State Stimulus program.  In addition, the Golden State Stimulus program will provide a one-time $600 payment to households that filed with an Individual Tax Identification Number, have income below $75,000 per year, and were precluded from receiving a federal stimulus payment.  Eligible households can receive both payments.

As a tax rebate, credit or temporary tax refund measure, Golden State Stimulus payments are not counted as income and are exempt from being counted as a resource for 12 months for CalWORKs CalFresh, and CAPI.

The CalWORKs Golden State Grant payment will provide a $600 one-time payment to eligible CalWORKs Assistance Units that will be distributed by mid-April 2021.  This payment is exempt from being considered income, and is exempt from being considered a resource for 12 months.

The CalWORKs Golden State Grant payment cannot be considered an overpayment and must be excluded from overpayment establishment and collection.

All active CalWORKs recipients as of March 27, 2021 are eligible for the CalWORKs Golden State Grant.  A family that contains a CalWORKs assistance unit may also be eligible for additional Golden State Grant payments if it includes a SSI or CAPI recipient.

Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program recipients are not eligible for the CalWORKs Golden State Grant.  (ACL 21-23, March 25, 2021.)

CalWORKs, CalFresh, and other programs treatment of rebates, refunds and credits under American Rescue Plan Act

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 contains several tax credits and rebates, including Earned Income Tax Credit, additional child tax credits, and child and dependent tax credits.  These individual rebates are excluded from consideration as income, and as an asset for 12 months after receipt for CalWORKs, CalFresh, Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance, Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payments, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants, programs that fund foster care payments, Approved Relative Caregiver program, and Emergency Assistance funding.  (ACL 21-37, March 26, 2021.)

New IHSS medical accompaniment for COVID vaccines

In Home Supportive Services recipients age 16 to 64 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.  IHSS recipients who need assistance from their provider to get a COVID-19 vaccine can use medical accompaniment hours for that purpose.  Recipients who need additional hours for this purpose, or who do not have medical accompaniment time but need it to get their vaccine can get a one-time payment for providers for up to four hours (two hours per vaccine appointment) per recipient.

CDSS is sending informing notices to IHSS recipients.  IHSS recipients aged 16 to 64 will get a letter which they can use to verify that they are IHSS recipients and the Vaccine Medical Accompaniment Claim Form.  IHSS recipients age 65 or older will only get a copy of the Claim Form.

No adjustment to existing service hours is needed, and hours for vaccine medical accompaniment will not be counted towards the provider’s weekly hours.  (ACL 21-31, March 15, 2021.)

Treatment of Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and other Unemployment Insurance for CalWORKs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding how Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) and other Unemployment Insurance programs are treated for purposes of CalWORKs.  PUC is the additional $300 per week in Unemployment Insurance benefits in the December, 2020 stimulus package.  For CalWORKs, PUC payments are now exempt for both applicants and recipients.  For CalFresh, PUC payments are exempt from consideration as income or resources for nine months following receipt.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is for self-employed workers and independent contractors, is considered income for CalWORKs applicants and recipients.  Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which is extension benefits after regular Unemployment Insurance or PUA expires, also is considered income for CalWORKs applicants and recipients.

FED-ED is an additional extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment for people who have sufficient earnings.  FED-ED is considered unearned income.  FED-ED benefits are considered income for CalWORKs applicants and recipients.

Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) is an additional $100 per week in Unemployment Insurance for individuals eligible for Unemployment Insurance and who have at least $5,000 in self-employment income.  MEUC will be considered unearned income when it is issued.  MEUC will be considered unearned income.  MEUC benefits will be considered income for CalWORKs applicants and recipients.

Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program follow the same CalWORKs rules for PUC, PUA, PEUC, FED-ED and MEUC.  (ACL 21-22, February 26, 2021.)