CalWORKs Homeless Assistance shared housing

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided questions and answers regarding CalWORKs Homeless Assistance shared housing.  Effective January 1, 2020, CalWORKs families may use homeless assistance payments to rent from any person or establishment with whom they have a valid lease, sublease or shared housing agreement.

For temporary homeless assistance, a lease is not necessary and any form of documentation showing the address, dates of stay, rent, and contact information of the provider is acceptable.  For permanent homeless assistance, the agreement must show the rent the CalWORKs family is paying to determine if the rent exceeds 80% of total monthly income.

For a long-term sublease or shared housing agreement for permanent homeless assistance, there should be documentation that the family is legally allowed to reside in the property, and that the sublease or shared housing agreement does not violate the original lease.  For short-term housing agreements for temporary homeless assistance, counties need to confirm that allowing a short term guest does not violate the terms of the original lease.  A statement from the tenant providing the housing is sufficient.

If the county cannot verify that there is a valid rental agreement, the county can contact the landlord with permission of the CalWORKs family.  This contact can be done by phone.  If contact cannot be made, a sworn statement from the client is sufficient.

There are no homeless assistance regulations regarding the maximum number of people per room.  There are also no requirements for the county to do a habitability check on the property prior to approving homeless assistance.

For temporary homeless assistance, the shared housing agreement is sufficient verification that the benefits were spent on shelter.  If counties want additional verification, a statement from the housing provider or a sworn statement from the client is adequate.

Temporary homeless assistance is a set amount, and the family is entitled to that amount even if their shelter cost is less than that amount.

Counties must comply with the assistance unit’s request to issue homeless assistance to the assistance unit or to the provider unless there is a finding of mismanagement of funds.

Families are not required to use their 16 nights of temporary homeless assistance in the same location.

Permanent homeless assistance can be used to pay security deposits.  This includes payment of the client’s share of an existing security deposit that is paid to the housing provider.

Temporary homeless assistance cannot be replaced when a housing provider breaks an agreement to provide housing.

There is no requirement that providers have a tax ID number.  If it is not possible to issue a vendor payment, counties should issue homeless assistance directly to families despite a mismanagement finding because they are entitled to the benefits.

Clients not providing receipts verifying that homeless assistance funds were spent on housing is not a basis for assessing an overpayment.  Not providing receipts is a basis for a finding of mismanagement of funds and subsequent benefits being issued by vendor payments.  The only time homeless assistance can be an overpayment is when the family was not eligible for the benefits when they received them.  (ACIN I-52-20, June 30, 2020.)

CalWORKs Zero Basic Grant implementation

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided questions and answers regarding CalWORKs Zero Basic Grants (ZBG) caused by changes in the Income Reporting Threshold.  Effective June 1, 2020, assistance units must report income over their IRT, but remain eligible for CalWORKs until their income is over the Tier 2 IRT, which is now 130 percent of the federal poverty level.  This change will allow families with net non-exempt income greater than the maximum aid payment but under 130% of the federal poverty level to remain eligible for CalWORKs but with a zero grant.  In addition, assistance units with a penalty that reduces the grant to zero, assistance units with a grant amount under $10, families with a grant reduced to zero by overpayment adjustment and families with grant based On-the Job training that is diverted to the employer to offset wages have a ZBG.

Assistance Units  with ZBG are eligible for homeless assistance, Welfare-to-Work supportive services, Stage 1 child care, pregnancy and other recurring and nonrecurring special needs, and home visiting program services.

Assistance Units with ZBG must make all mandatory reports.  ZBG recipients are required to participate in Welfare-to-Work unless they are exempt.  The 48-month time clock will not tick because of income exceeding the maximum aid payment but under 130% of the federal poverty level.  However, the clock will tick for ZBG cases where the grant is under $10 because of overpayment recoupment and for months when the assistance unit receives homeless assistance or another non-recurring special need.  (ACIN I-53-20, June 30, 2020.)

COVID-19 extension of child welfare caseworker visits by alternative means

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties of extensions of various COVID-19 policies for child welfare services caseworker visits. ACIN I-33-20, summarized here, about monthly caseworker visits using alternative contact methods is extended until the end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency.  (ACL 20-73, June 26, 2020.)

COVID-19 extension of various foster care and child welfare changes

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties of extensions of various COVID-19 policies for foster care and child welfare services.  The following guidance is extended until the end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency:  ACL 20-33, summarized here, about placement preservation in the event of exposure to, symptoms of or a positive test for COVID-19, and ACL 20-58, child welfare reassessments during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

The following guidance is extended through August 4, 2020: ACIN I-32-20, summarized here, verification of foster care status for cell phone access.  ACL 20-74 (June 26, 2020).

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for July 2020

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for July, 2020.  The emergency allotment will be issued on August 16 to raise each household’s monthly CalFresh allotment to the maximum allowable for the household size.  Per guidance from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), households already receiving the maximum allotment are not eligible to receive an emergency allotment.

Moving forward, emergency allotments may be approved by FNS on a month-to-month basis until the Secretary of Health and Human Services rescinds the public health emergency. (ACWDL, June 23, 2020.)