CalWORKs Zero Basic Grant implementation

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided questions and answers regarding CalWORKs Zero Basic Grants (ZBG) caused by changes in the Income Reporting Threshold.  Effective June 1, 2020, assistance units must report income over their IRT, but remain eligible for CalWORKs until their income is over the Tier 2 IRT, which is now 130 percent of the federal poverty level.  This change will allow families with net non-exempt income greater than the maximum aid payment but under 130% of the federal poverty level to remain eligible for CalWORKs but with a zero grant.  In addition, assistance units with a penalty that reduces the grant to zero, assistance units with a grant amount under $10, families with a grant reduced to zero by overpayment adjustment and families with grant based On-the Job training that is diverted to the employer to offset wages have a ZBG.

Assistance Units  with ZBG are eligible for homeless assistance, Welfare-to-Work supportive services, Stage 1 child care, pregnancy and other recurring and nonrecurring special needs, and home visiting program services.

Assistance Units with ZBG must make all mandatory reports.  ZBG recipients are required to participate in Welfare-to-Work unless they are exempt.  The 48-month time clock will not tick because of income exceeding the maximum aid payment but under 130% of the federal poverty level.  However, the clock will tick for ZBG cases where the grant is under $10 because of overpayment recoupment and for months when the assistance unit receives homeless assistance or another non-recurring special need.  (ACIN I-53-20, June 30, 2020.)

COVID-19 extension of suspension of CalWORKs time on aid and verification requirements

The California Department of Social Services has issued guidance implementing Executive Order N-69-20 which extends several COVID-19 changes to the CalWORKs program.

The CalWORKs 48-month time on aid clock will remain stopped through August, 2020.  The requirement for providing medical verification of pregnancy before approving benefits continues to be suspended until August 14, 2020.  The requirement for CalWORKs applicants to provide photo identification continues to be suspended until August 14, 2020.  The requirement for signatures on the application and rights and responsibilities forms continues to be suspended until August 14, 2020.  The requirement that CalWORKs applicants be personally interviewed before being approved for benefits continues to be suspended until August 14, 2020.  Details about the verification suspension are in All County Welfare Directors Letter May 4, 2020, summarized here.

The verification suspension also applies to Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program.  (ACWDL, June 16, 2020.)

COVID-19 processing IEVS matches

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding processing IEVS matches because of COVID-19.  Processing of Recipient-IEVS matches for March, April, and May, 2020 are suspended.  Counties must not process Recipient-IEVS matches received during March, April, and May, 2020.  Counties have been granted an extension of the IEVS follow-up timeframes.

However, processing continues of matches from the Payment Verification System, which includes information on CalWORKs and CalFresh recipients who receive or are entitled to Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and State Disability Insurance benefits.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation all count as income for CalFresh.  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation count as income for CalWORKs.  Pandemic Unemployment Compensation does not count as income for CalWORKs but counts as income for CalWORKs applicants.

CDSS is working with the Employment Development Department to develop an electronic match for Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

For CalFresh, if a recipient responds to a notice of adverse action with by stating they receive Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the county must verify receipt of those benefits and take appropriate action.

For CalWORKs, any Unemployment Insurance benefits with be added to other earned income and exceed the Income Reporting Threshold to be considered a missed mandatory report.  If the county discovers the recipient may have missed such a report, the county must send the recipient a verification letter to request verification of Unemployment Insurance, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.

Beginning June 1, 2020, all IEVS matches will continue except for the Annual IRS Match, which will not resume until 2021.

Cases of suspected fraud must still be referred to Special Investigative Units (SIU) regardless of any temporary waiver periods or restrictions because of COVID-19.  SIUs can continue to conduct face-to-face interviews.   No application or benefits should be delayed, denied or interrupted without sufficient evidence to take case action.  (ACWDL, June 5, 2020.)

MBSAC increase

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties that the CalWORKs Minimum Basic Standard of Care (MBSAC) will increase by 3.72% effective July 1, 2020.  This will increase the MBSAC in Region 1 to $741 for a 1 one person assistance unit, $1,216 for a 2 person assistance unit, $1,507 for a 3 person assistance unit and increasing with increases in assistance unit size.  The MBSAC for Region 2 will increase to $703 for a 1 one person assistance unit, $1,155 for a 2 person assistance unit, $1,430 for a 3 person assistance unit and increasing with increases in assistance unit size.

The same increase will apply to the MBSAC for Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program.  The same increase will apply to the CalWORKs Income in-kind level.  (ACL 20-60, May 29, 2020.)

COVID-19 immediate and continuous child care for exempt and sanctioned participants

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided clarifications about immediate and continuous Stage One child care for exempt volunteers and sanctioned welfare-to-work (WTW) participants.  General information about immediate and continuous Stage One child care is in ACL 19-99, summarized here.

Clients who are exempt from WTW participation who express an intent to participate in WTW as an exempt volunteer are eligible for immediate and continuous Stage One child care.  An exempt individual’s expressed intent to volunteer to participate in WTW is sufficient to establish authorization for immediate and continuous Stage One child care.  This indication can be communicated in any manner (for example in writing, verbally, by phone or in person).

Exempt volunteers will need to sign a WTW plan to maintain child care.  Exempt volunteers will have 30 days to locate child care, and 30 days to sign a plan.  Depending on communication with the client, these 30 day time frames and run concurrently or sequentially.

Exempt volunteers authorized for immediate and continuous Stage One child care who sign a WTW plan will continue to receive child care for 12 months, regardless of their participation status after signing the plan.

Clients who were sanctioned prior to October 1, 2019 or sanctioned clients applying for child care after October 1, 2019 must be authorized to receive immediate and continuous child care upon expressing an intent to cure the sanction to the county.  The indication of intent to cure the sanction is sufficient to establish authorization for immediate and continuous Stage One child care.  This indication can be communicated in any manner (for example in writing, verbally, by phone or in person).

Sanctioned individuals shall not be required to sign a cure plan prior to receiving immediate and continuous Stage One child care.   Exempt volunteers will have 30 days to locate child care, and 30 days to sign a cure plan.  Depending on communication with the client, these 30 day time frames and run concurrently or sequentially.  For individuals who do not sign a cure plan, child care will be discontinued until the sanction client again indicates an intent to cure the sanction.  Sanctioned clients who sign a cure plan will be authorized for immediate and continuous Stage One child care without discontinuance regardless of their participation status after signing the plan. (ACIN I-15-20, May 6, 2020.)