Increase in child support disregard for the CalWORKs program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the increase in the child support disregard for the CalWORKs program.  Effective January 1, 2022, or when the computer systems are programmed, whichever is later, the disregard of current child support will increase from $50 to $100 for one child and $200 for two children.  These payments are not included when determining CalWORKs eligibility and/or grant amounts.

Safety net cases that are exempt from child support assignment will have the first $100 for one child and $200 for two children of collected child support will not included when determining CalWORKs eligibility and/or grant amounts.

Families that receive direct child support payments must report those payments as income, and will have first $100 for one child and $200 for two children not included when determining CalWORKs eligibility and/or grant amounts.

Families with a child that is opted-out of the CalWORKs assistance unit and are directly receiving child support for that child under SB 380 qualify for the $200 disregard because those families have more than one child in the assistance unit.

In determining eligibility for opt-out under SB 380, the amount of child support collected to be eligible is the maximum aid payment for that child plus the $200 disregard.

Counties are required to inform applicants and recipients of this change at least 90 days before implementation, and to inform new applicants at application beginning no later than 30 days prior to implementation.  (ACL 20-115, October 28, 2020.)

End of 24-month CalWORKs time clock

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the end of the 24-month CalWORKs time clock and related welfare-to-work (WTW) changes.  Effective May 1, 2022, or when the computer systems are programmed, whichever is later, the CalWORKs 24 month time clock is repealed.  The California CalWORKs standards will be the only WTW hourly participation requirements and federal standards will no longer be used to determine WTW participation. This means that all WTW activities allowed under California law will be counted at any time during the CalWORKs time on aid clock.

Months where WTW participation is excused for good cause for at least 50% of the hourly participation requirement will not count toward the time on aid clock. Family stabilization services will be available at any point on the WTW time clock.  Self-Initiated Plans will be available at any time during the WTW time on aid clock. Vocational education and job search/job readiness will be allowable activities throughout the time on aid clock.

Counties must notify all clients of these changes as soon as appropriate prior to May 1, 2022.  If after being informed of these changes a client chooses to remain in their existing WTW plan, the client will not need to sign a new WTW plan document.

Starting on the date these changes become effective, no CalWORKs recipient can be sanctioned if they are meeting minimum WTW participation requirements.  This includes clients who are assigned to a compliance plan or a cure plan even if the compliance or cure plan is to meet federal CalWORKs standards.

Recipients in the noncompliance process for failing to meet federal standards at the time these changes become effective must be informed that meeting CalWORKs participation requirements with any allowable activity will end noncompliance.  Counties must inform recipients who are removed from aid because of the 24 month time clock that they can receive aid by meeting CalWORKs participation requirements with any allowable activity  (ACL 20-120, November 13, 2020.)

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.)

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.)

Temporary homeless assistance repeal of consecutive 16 day rule

SB 80 (2019) removed the requirement that the 16 days of temporary homeless assistance had to be used on consecutive days.  Changes to the welfare computer systems have now been made, and the removal of the requirement that the 16 days of temporary homeless assistance to be used on consecutive days is effective as of October 1, 2020.  (ACIN I-83-20, November 17, 2020.)