Homelessness prevention programs

The California Department of Social Services has issued information about various homelessness prevention programs.  CalWORKs diversion is a payment to help the family meet a short term need instead of receiving CalWORKs.  A diversion payment can be used to pay overdue rent to help prevent eviction or homelessness.  If a family accepts a diversion payment and needs to reapply for CalWORKs during a period equivalent to the months of aid a diversion payment would cover, the family must repay the diversion grant or those months count toward the CalWORKs time on aid clock.  Diversion recipients who reapply for CalWORKs are eligible for all housing services available to CalWORKs recipients.

Non-Recurring Short-Term Benefits is a lump sum payment to help address a family’s specific crisis or item of need.  Non-Recurring Short-Term Benefits is for a maximum of four months.  Non-Recurring Short-Term Benefits can be used for any accrued debts or liabilities that may be covered including rent.  There is no limit on the amount of benefits that can be provided. Families may provide sworn statements to document their need.  Counties may accept a verbal statement if the applicant is unable to provide a physical or electronic signature.

Family Stabilization provides intensive case management and services to CalWORKs families facing crisis.  Family Stabilization can be used to pay rent owed and provide additional services including case management, referrals to legal services and credit repair to prevent eviction or homelessness.

Permanent Homeless Assistance is available for families that are eligible for, apparently eligible for or receiving CalWORKs and are at risk of eviction or homelessness.  Permanent Homeless Assistance can pay up to two months back rent to prevent eviction once every 12 months with exceptions.  The monthly rent must be less than 80% of the family’s total monthly income.  Note not included in the letter that alternatively permanent homeless assistance can cover security deposit and first and last month rent.

Disaster Homeless Assistance is available for families that become homeless or are at risk of homelessness because of a state or federally declared natural disaster.  Disaster Homeless Assistance can include 16 days temporary homeless assistance or permanent homeless assistance.

Tribal TANF programs can provide eviction and homelessness prevention services.

CalFresh Employment and Training can provide housing stability services for recipients who are at risk of eviction of homelessness.  Federal reimbursement for subsidized housing is limited to no more than two months per year.

Refugee support services can provide emergency assistance, including housing and utility assistance if they experience job disruption, job loss, or other COVID-19 related challenges.

The Bringing Families Home program can pay overdue or ongoing rent for families experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness who are involved with the child welfare system in counties that operate the program.  Bringing Families Home can also provide housing navigation, case management, and coordination with additional necessary services including legal services.

The Home Safe Program provides, in participating counties, assistance to persons involved in the Adult Protective Services system who are at risk of imminent homelessness because of elder or dependent adult abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation.  Home Safe Program assistance includes landlord engagement, case management, legal services, eviction protection, short-term financial assistance, heave cleaning and landlord mediation.  (ACWDL, January 14, 2021.)

Modifying CDSS required forms

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) states that they have learned that counties have been modifying required forms with proper consent.  Forms that are in the “Required Forms – No Substitute Permitted” category cannot be modified or restructured.  No changers can be made to a required form unless required for a computer system.  Reformatting or restructuring a required form for a computer can only be done with CDSS approval.  If a county wants to modify a required form, the county must submit a written request to CDSS before implementing the proposed changes.  (ACL 21-02, January 4, 2021.)

Transitional CalFresh guidance

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding Transitional CalFresh.  Counties must automatically provide Transitional CalFresh to CalWORKs households who leave CalWORKs “in good standing.”  CalWORKs household that are eligible for Transitional CalFresh include CalWORKs households that are discontinued because the household exceeded income or resource limits, asked to close their case, a parent timed out or a child aged out, or disqualified because of a CalWORKs rule change.

Individual members if CalWORKs households are not eligible for Transitional CalFresh if they are approved for benefits in another state, sanctioned, disqualified for an Intentional Program Violation, ineligible for CalWORKs because of immigration status, discontinued for not providing necessary information or completing a periodic report, disqualified for knowing transfer to resources to maintain CalFresh eligibility, disqualified for duplicate CalFresh participation, disqualified from CalFresh for being a fleeing felon, or being in violation of conditions of probation or parole, or disqualified for not complying with Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents requirements.  Other members of the household are eligible for Transitional CalFresh.

If an entire CalWORKs household is denied Transitional CalFresh, the county must assess whether the entire household or individual members are eligible for regular CalFresh.

The maximum Transitional CalFresh benefits period is 5 months. The Transitional CalFresh allotment is based on the CalFresh allotment prior to the CalFresh discontinuance adjusted for the loss of CalWORKs income.  Additional income is not considered.  The benefit amount is based on information already available to the county.  The county cannot contact the household to establish Transitional CalFresh eligibility or amount.

During the Transitional CalFresh period, the benefit allotment is frozen.  Households do not need to report changes, and counties do not need to act on third party information.

At any time during the Transitional CalFresh period, the household may reapply for regular CalFresh by completing the CalFresh recertification process. The county must evaluate the application and inform the household if the regular CalFresh allotment would be lower and give the household the chance to withdraw their application.

Households restoring CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits within 30 days of the CalWORKs discontinuance do not need to submit a new CalFresh application.  In cases where a CalWORKs discontinuance is rescinded, there cannot be a CalFresh overissuance because the Transitional CalFresh benefit is determined based on information available at the time.

Any Transitional CalFresh household member who returns to CalWORKs during the Transitional CalFresh period must be recertified before receiving regular CalFresh.

(ACL 20-129, January 6, 2021.)

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for January 2021

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for January, 2021.  The emergency allotment will be issued on February 7, 2021 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.  However, the Consolidated Appropriations Act increases CalFresh allotments by 15% for the period January 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021.  Information about this increase will be issued in a future letter.

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, January 4, 2021.)

COVID-19 not counting new stimulus payments as income for benefits programs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding treatment of the new individual stimulus payments as income for various benefits programs.

The payments authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 are individual tax rebates.  They are excluded from income in the month received for CalWORKs, CalFresh, Refugee Cash Assistance, and the Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program.  The individual stimulus payments count as a resource after 12 months if they have not been spent.  (ACWDL, December 31, 2020.)

CalFresh Elderly Simplified Application Project extension

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding extension of the Elderly Simplified Application Project (ESAP).  ESAP is federal waivers to allow elderly and disabled CalFresh households to waive recertification interviews, use data matching to reduce needed verifications, extend certification period for up to 36 months, and waive the requirement to contact the household every 12 months, which eliminates the need to send and collect SAR-7 reports.

These waivers apply to households where all members are either elderly (age 60 or older) or disabled with no earned income.  Households that include excluded or ineligible members who are also elderly or disabled are eligible for ESAP.

This is an extension of existing federal waivers until September 30, 2026.  The elimination of periodic reporting is new and is expected to be effective on March 1, 2022 when programming is completed.

When the waiver of periodic reporting becomes effective, ESAP households will still need to complete mandatory mid-period reporting, including gross income over the Income Reporting Threshold during the 36 month-certification period.

The interview waiver allows counties to waive recertification interviews unless the case is set to be denied.  This means there will not be a recertification interview unless requested by the household, the county is going to deny the recertification application, or information provided is questionable, incomplete or contradictory.  An ESAP case cannot be denied at recertification without an attempt to schedule an interview.  Counties must continue to conduct interviews at initial certification for ESAP household except that the initial interview may be waived for other reasons.

The verification waiver means that ESAP households are only required to submit verification of income, non-citizen eligibility, utility expenses, medical expenses, social security numbers, residency, identity, or child support payments if they are questionable.

If a household becomes ineligible for ESAP during the 36-month certification period (for example because of employment or a change in household composition) the county must convert the household to non-ESAP and the household will need to comply with all reporting requirements.  However, the household must complete their 36-month certification period.  The county cannot shorten the certification period once it is assigned.  At the end of the 36-month certification period, the county must determine continuing CalFresh eligibility and whether the household continues to be ineligible for ESAP.  The county must send a written notice to the household when it is converted from ESAP to a regular CalFresh household.  (ACL 20-145, December 29, 2020.)