Immediate and continuous child care eligibility

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued directions implementing immediate and continuous child care eligibility.  Effective October 1, 2019, counties must approve child care concurrently with CalWORKs cash aid and authorize child care for 12 months or until CalWORKs recipients are transferred to Stage Two.  Child care shall be authorized full time, that is 30 or more hours per week, unless the recipient requests part-time care.

Stage One recipients no longer need to recertify child care eligibility more than once every 12 months unless child are needs increase, they have a new child who needs care, they have changed child care providers or the eligible child becomes ineligible.

Once a family is determined eligible for CalWORKs they will receive a 12-month Stage One Child care authorization except for families with no aided adults, and newly approved recipients who are exempt from welfare-to-work and do not indicate a desire to voluntarily participate.  Exempt recipients who declare an intent to participate and sign a welfare-to-work plan will be eligible for immediate and continuous child care.

If a mandatory welfare-to-work participant stops participating in their activity, child care services continue for the remainder of the authorization period or until child care authorization is discontinued.  Parents sanctioned after being authorized for child care shall remain eligible until the 12-month period is concluded or they are transferred to Stage 2.  Parents sanctioned before October 1, 2019 who received CalWORKs in the last 24-months are eligible for State Two. Sanctioned parents who indicate an intent to cure their sanction are eligible for immediate and continuous child care effective at the time they communicate their intent to cure.

Recipients with a domestic violence waiver remain eligible for continuous child care regardless of their welfare-to-work participation.

Immediate and continuous child care eligibility will not be granted to two parent families in which one parent is able and available to provide child care.

Counties must verify that suitable child care has been authorized and secured before mandating participation in any activities.  Counties must provide written notice that participants have 30 days to confirm that child care has been secured before participation is mandatory.  The notice should include information about how to get help finding child care.  If the county has not been informed that child care has been secured after 15 days, the county must contact the participant to help secure child care.

License exempt providers who are not exempt from TrustLine must complete registration prior to being paid.  Once TrustLine registration has occurred, the provider can receive retroactive payments for up to 120 days from the date CalWORKs services were requested or services provided, whichever is later.

Immediate and continuous child care can be discontinued only if the recipient is transferred to Stage Two and the county receives confirmation of Stage Two enrollment, the participant exceeds income eligibility of 85% of the state median income for their family size, or if an exempt participate initially volunteers but later decides not to participate and does not sign a welfare-to-work plan.

When determining eligibility for diversion services instead of CalWORKs, counties must consider the adequacy of the applicant’s child care arrangements.  Stage Two child care can be provided to diversion recipients when a funded Stage Three space is not immediately available.

Counties must provide written notice of availability of child care several times throughout their time on CalWORKs.

Stage One must continue until confirmation is received from the Stage Two administrator that child care is provided in Stage Two unless a family is otherwise ineligible.  Practices to improve the transfer process between Stage One and Stage Two include ongoing communication between the Stage One and Stage Two administrators, confirmation of transfer before Stage One is discontinued, and transferring data elements.  The case is transferred to Stage Two when the Stage Two contractor received all nine data elements from the county welfare department or Stage One administrator and has notified the transferring contractor in writing or by email that the nine data elements are complete.

Beginning no later than January 1, 2021, county welfare departments shall provide limited, read-only, online access to SAWS systems including a single summary page that contains current data needed to enroll a family in CalWORKs child care or transfer a family between stages.

Beginning no later than January 1, 2021, county welfare departments must provide Stage Two contractors a monthly report of all families for which the parent’s cash aid has been discontinued, the parent has not received aid in the last 30 days and the parent has children in the home who are potentially eligible for child care.  (ACL 19-99, October 4, 2019.)

Fiscal year 2020 Income Reporting Threshold

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued the new Income Reporting Threshold (IRT) amounts for federal fiscal year 2020.  The IRT is the amount that triggers reporting requirements mid-period.  The new IRT levels are effective October 1, 2019.

Assistance Units are required to report when their total combined earned and unearned income exceeds the IRT amount.  Assistance Units with only unearned income are not required to report when that income by itself exceeds the IRT mid-period.

When a family receives income over the IRT amount and reports it to the county, the county must determine of the reported income is reasonably anticipated to continue.  If the income over the IRT will continue but not at a level that will result in ineligibility, the county must use the new reasonably anticipated income to recalculate the grant.

Counties must send an informing notice to recipients that is individualized for each assistance unit.  Counties must inform recipients of their IRT at least one per semi-annual reporting period or whenever their IRT changes.  The IRT level in which the recipient was last notified is used for reporting purposes until the county has informed the recipient of a change to their IRT.

These instructions also apply to Refugee Case Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victim Assistance Programs.  (ACL 19-85, August 15, 2019.)

Homeless Assistance clarifications

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued clarifications regarding recent changes to the CalWORKs Homeless Assistance program.

Participants who become homeless because of a state or federally declared disaster qualify for good cause for failure to provide proof of housing search.  In addition, counties can waive the initial three-day limit on temporary homeless assistance and instead issue temporary homeless assistance in increments of more than one week for persons who become homeless because of a state or federally declared natural disaster.  There is no limit on the number of times in a year a family can receive homeless assistance because of a state or federally declared natural disaster, and receiving benefits on this basis does not count toward once every 12-month limit on Homeless Assistance.  Counties must indentify and inform CalWORKs in a state or federally declared disaster area of their eligibility for Homeless Assistance.

Homeless CalWORKs families who are receiving Family Reunification services are eligible to receive temporary homeless assistance if the county determines that these benefits will assist with reunification, despite the fact that these cases do not receive a cash grant.

CDSS has revised the CW 42 Homeless Statement of Facts to include information about expanded Homeless Assistance for persons fleeing domestic violence.  CDSS has also issued new and revised notice of action messages.  (ACL 19-77, July 31, 2019.)

Changes to CalWORKs income disregard and income reporting threshold

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding changes to CalWORKs income disregards and income reporting threshold (IRT) in SB 80.  Effective June 1, 2020 or when CDSS notifies the legislature that the computer systems have been programmed, whichever is later, the disregard for earned income or disability based income will increase from $225 to $500 and 50 percent of the remaining earned income.  Effective June 1, 2021 or one year from the date the first increase is automated, the earned income disregard will increase to $550. Effective June 1, 2022 or two years from the date the first increase is automated, the earned income disregard will increase to $600.

Effectvie June 1, 2020 or when CDSS informs the legislature that programming is complete, whichever is later, grants will be reevaluated by the county using the new income disregard amount.

There are currently three different CalWORKs income reporting threshold amounts.  Effective June 1, 2020, or when automation is complete, whichever is later, there will only be two income reporting threshold amounts – 55 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of three plus the amount of income last used to calculate the grant, and 130 percent of the federal poverty level, or the level at which a family becomes ineligible for CalFresh.  This change will allow families to earn more income without losing eligibility.

When the family receives income over the IRT and reports it to the county, the county must determine whether the reported income is reasonably anticipated to continue.  If income over the IRT is reasonable anticipated to continue but not at a level that will result in ineligibility, the county must recalculate the grant.

CDSS issued modified notices to reflect the new income disregard and IRT amounts.  (ACL 19-76, August 2, 2019.)

CalWORKs changes to asset and vehicle value limits

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued information regarding the increase in CalWORKs assets and vehicle value limits in SB 80.  Effective June 1, 2020 or when CDSS notifies the legislature that the computer systems have been programmed, whichever is later, the maximum resource limit for CalWORKs assistance units will increase to $10,000.  The maximum resource limit will increase to $15,000 for assistance units with a member who is 60 years of age or older, or disabled.  Beginning on January 1, 2021, or when CDSS notifies the legislature that the computer systems have been programmed, whichever is later, the resource thresholds will increase by an amount equal to the increase in the California Necessities Index for the most recent fiscal year.

Effective June 1, 2020, or when CDSS notifies the legislature that the computer systems have been programmed, whichever is later the maximum equity value of a car will increase to $25,000 for all applicants and recipients.  Beginning on January 1, 2021, or when CDSS notifies the legislature that the computer systems have been programmed, whichever is later, the maximum equity threshold for cars will increase by an amount equal to the increase in the United States Transportation Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers.  Current exemptions for cars will remain in place.

The rules regarding restricted accounts will not change.  (ACL 19-67, July 26, 2019.)

 

Applicant IEVS processing

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued instructions to counties regarding use of the Applicant Income and Eligibility Verification System (IEVS). Applicant IEVS is a third party verification system that is used at initial application and each subsequent redetermination.  Counties must use Applicant IEVS to assist in resolving any potential discrepancies with what was reported on the application (SAWS 2) and/or in the interview.  These discrepancies must be resolved prior to the beginning of a new certification period.  However, the eligibility determination cannot be delayed pending receipt of Applicant IEVS if other information establishes eligibility.

Counties must request Applicant IEVS information at least 15 days prior to the redetermination interview.  If a county cannot resolve a discrepancy relevant to the eligibility determination, the county must provide the client with a CW 2200 verification letter.

The Applicant IEVS process does not impact the existing Recipient IEVS process for using the IEVS system to determine whether a recipient has earned or unearned income.  Counties should ensure that the client is not asked to provide identical information based on duplicate IEVS information.  (ACL 19-78, August 5, 2019.)