COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for March 2021

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for March, 2021, so long as the COVID-19 public health emergency remains in place at some point in the month of March.  The emergency allotment will be issued on April 18, 2021 to raise each household’s monthly CalFresh allotment to the maximum allowable for the household size.

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, February 25, 2021.)

CalFresh benefit replacement

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a reminder regarding CalFresh benefit replacement policies.  Requests for replacement of food bought with CalFresh benefits that are lost because of household misfortune are made using the Replacement Affidavit/Authorization (CF 303).  There is no limit on the number of replacements in the same month if food is lost in a household misfortune.

For multiple replacements from the same household misfortune, replacement issuance cannot exceed the household’s regular monthly CalFresh allotment.  For multiple misfortunes in the same month, each replacement request must be assessed independently and can exceed the household’s regular CalFresh allotment.

A signed statement attesting to the household loss is sufficient and verification of food loss is required only if the signed statement is questionable.

Mass replacements allow for automatic replacement of a certain percentage of household benefits.  CDSS must get a federal waiver for mass replacement.  Mass replacements are typically issued by zip code.  Mass replacement is possible if at least half of the households in the zip code were without power for four hours or more.  A zip code can only be approved for one mass issuance per month, regardless of how many disasters occur in a month.

Households that receive a mass replacement can receive an individual replacement if they request it and can verify that the mass replacement did not cover the entire food loss or if there is a second misfortune in the same month.  A household that received an individual replacement cannot receive a mass replacement for the same month.  (ACL 21-15, February 5, 2021.)

CalFresh medical expense deduction

Elderly or disabled persons can deduct qualifying medical expenses from their income to determine CalFresh eligibility.  Under a federal waiver, until September 30, 2021, households with one elderly or disabled member that have qualifying medical expenses over $35 per month may claim a standard income deduction of $120.  Eligible households with qualifying medical expenses over $155 per month may deduct their actual expenses.

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has transmitted the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Guide to the Treatment of Medical Expenses for Elderly or Disabled Household members.  In addition to the FNS Guide, California has additional guidance on special circumstances.

A household can report medical expenses at any time during the certification period.  If the report results in an increase in benefits, the change is effective no later than the first allotment issued 10 days after the date the change was reported.  No supplemental benefits can be issued for previous months.  This supersedes previous guidance.

Costs of securing and maintaining a service animal are allowable medical expenses.  Service animals must be specially trained to assist the individual with the medical condition for which the animal is prescribed to be considered as service animal for purposes of CalFresh.  Expenses for an emotional support animal that meets this criteria are countable for purposes of CalFresh.

If it is evident that an animal is specially trained, no verification is needed.  If it is questionable whether the animal qualifies as a service animal, counties can only ask if the applicant/recipient if animal is required for a disability and what tasks the animal is trained to perform.

Direct payments for the costs of a service animal are not income for purposes of CalFresh.

For medical transportation, counties must use the Internal Revenue Service standard business rate to determine the amount of the expense deduction.  (ACL 21-13, February 5, 2021.)

Suspected Unemployment Insurance fraud and identity theft information

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance regarding reporting fraud or identity theft when it is suspected that someone else used their information to collect Unemployment Insurance benefits.  In cases where applicants or recipients state that Unemployment Insurance claims have been filed using personal identifying information without their knowledge or consent, counties should help households to report suspected Unemployment Insurance fraud and identity theft.  CDSS has provided a notice to inform clients of resources for reporting suspected identity theft or benefits fraud

In cases of identity theft, counties cannot require any proof such as a police report or documents from the Employment Development Department.  A signed affidavit is acceptable verification for resolving reporting discrepancies.  (ACWDL, January 29, 2021.)

COVID-19 CalFresh emergency allotment for February 2021

California has been approved to issue an emergency allotment of CalFresh for February, 2021.  The emergency allotment will be issued on March 7, 2021 to raise each household’s monthly CalFresh allotment to the maximum allowable for the household size.

The date for issuance of the January, 2021 emergency allotment is changed from February 7, 2021 to February 14, 2021.

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 29, 2021.)