Social Security and SSI COLA

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients will receive a 1.6% cost of living adjustment (COLA) effective January 1, 2020.  The California Department of Social Services has issued instructions regarding how the COLA will impact CalWORKs and CalFresh Grants.

For new CalWORKs and CalFresh applicants, the anticipated amount of the Social Security or SSI benefits, including the COLA, will be used to determine eligibility and grant amount starting for January, 2020.

For CalWORKs and CalFresh households in their final month of their semi-annual reporting period, counties will reasonably anticipate the increase in Social Security and SSI income for January, 2020 and thereafter.

For all other CalWORKs and CalFresh households, counties must adjust benefits beginning in January, 2020 to include the COLA amount because COLA adjustments cause mandatory mid-period changes in grant amounts.  Counties must give timely and adequate notice of grant amount changes caused by the COLA.  (ACIN I-67-19, November 25, 2019.)

Disaster CalFresh income limits

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued the Disaster CalFresh income limits for the period October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.  Disaster CalFresh allows people living in federally declared disaster area who had not been receiving CalFresh to be eligible for CalFresh because of the disaster.

CDSS has a chart of the new income levels.  The new Disaster CalFresh income limit is $1,777 for a household of 1, $2,146 for household of 2, $2,514 for a household of 3, $2,893 for a household of 4, with amounts increasing as household size increases according to the chart.  (ACIN I-63-19, October 14, 2019.)

CalFresh disaster response notices and replacement methodology

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued new disaster response notices and an overview of the replacement benefit methodology.

CDSS has issued a new CF 303 form to request replacement CalFresh benefits.  When a food loss occurs, a household can request replacement of benefits used to purchase food that was lost.  A household has 10 days from the date the food was destroyed to report the loss.  If the county does not receive the CF 303 form within 10 days of the date the food was destroyed, no replacement benefits will be issued.  It is possible that an entire county or specific zip codes codes will be approved for a timely reporting waiver which will extend to the time to report food loss for up to 30 days from the date of the disaster.

After a household contacts the county to report the loss, the county must provide the CF 303 as soon as possible.  The form can be provided in person, or by mail if an electronic version is not available to the household.  The signed form can be returned in person, by mail, by fax or through the household’s online benefits portal.

Prior to issuing replacement benefits, the county must verify the loss. This can be done by collateral contacts, documentation from a community agency or a home visit.  The county can delay or deny replacement for up to seven days if available documentation indicates the request is questionable or fraudulent.

Maximum replacement is one month of benefits.  Counties determine on a case-by-case basis whether to provide full or partial replacement.  A recommended method for determining the amount of replacement benefits is to determine the daily issuance amount and multiply that by the number of days between the issuance and the disaster.

For power outages, replacement is 70 percent of the calculated amount because the United States Department of Agriculture determined that 30 percent of food purchased is not perishable and therefore would not need to be replaced.

Individual disaster supplements are issued only during approved application periods for areas that have received a Presidential Declaration of Disaster.  The household must submit a CF 303 form during the Disaster CalFresh application period.  When counties find a household eligible for a disaster supplement, they must issue the benefit within three days, or no more than seven days of the request is deemed questionable.  The disaster supplement amount is the maximum benefit amount for the household size minus the actual monthly allotment for the household.

CDSS also revised the CF 390 form that is used to approve or deny Disaster CalFresh benefits.  (ACL 19-95, September 19, 2019.)

CalFresh ABAWD Handbook 2.0

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued version 2.0 of the CalFresh Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) Handbook.  Federal law limits Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (CalFresh in California) benefits to 3 months in a 36 month period for ABAWDs unless a waiver applies.  The handbook includes a general overview of the ABAWD time limit, guidance on ABAWD exemptions, and how ABAWDs subject to the time limit may satisfy the ABAWD work requirement.  The handbook also addresses counting months of ABAWD participation, losing and regaining CalFresh eligibility, and the system California uses to track an ABAWD’s eligibility and participation through the 36-month period.  (ACL 19-93, September 12, 2019.)

CalFresh ABAWD waiver

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the new federal waiver of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Able Bodied Adults Without Dependants (ABAWD) time limit.  The new waiver is effective September 1, 2019 through August 31, 2020.  52 counties qualify for waiver of the ABAWD three month time limit.  Six counties must implement the ABAWD time limit: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

Counties with a waiver must continue to report work registrant, ABAWD, and Employment and Training data quarterly. Counties with a waiver must continue to sanction CalFresh work registrants who voluntarily quit a job of 30 or more hours per week or which provides earnings equivalent to federal minimum wage times 30, or who reduce weekly hours worked to less than 30.

Individuals who were previously discontinued for failure to satisfy ABAWD work requirements and subsequently reapply for CalFresh in a county with a waiver are eligible for benefits. CalFresh Employment and Training, and voluntary quit sanctions, do not stop when an individual moves to a county with an ABAWD time limit waiver.  (ACL 19-96, September 20, 2019.)

Additions to Resource Family Approval program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided information about additions to the Resource Family Approval (RFA) program made by AB 1930.  The RFA program created a new approval process for foster family homes, relative and non-relative extended family members interested in caring for children in foster care.  AB 1930 made three changes to the program.

First, AB 1930 extended the Foster Family Home and Small Family Home Insurance Fund to resource families.  The fund covers claims for bodily or personal injury to foster children during the foster care relationship.  Previously the fund only applied to foster family homes and small family homes.

Second, AB 1930 provides caregiver immunity for any act or omission made by the caregiver when acting as a reasonable and prudent parent, and for any act or omission of a child or nonminor dependant while in the caregiver’s home.  Immunity does not apply when the act exceeded a caregiver’s duty, the act was made with malice or bad faith or was the result of recklessness or gross negligence of the caregiver, the act or omission did not comply with instructions from the county placement agency, and when liability is expressly imposed by another statute.

Finally, AB 1930 created exceptions to confidentiality of the RFA Written Report, including authorizing release to the applicant or resource family, a tribal agency, a county child welfare agency or probation department, CDSS, a licensed foster family agency, a county adoption agency, a licensed adoption agency, or the child welfare agency of a sending state.  (ACL 19-72, August 26, 2019.)