CalWORKs eligibility for disaster victims and evacuees

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a reminder about regulations an policies for processing CalWORKs applications and documents on behalf of disaster victims and evacuees.

For evacuees who apply for CalWORKs, if the applicant and the county make a good faith effort to obtain verification and are unable to do so, the county must accept the evacuee’s statements signed under penalty of perjury in lieu of verification.

When an individual or family displaced by fires applies for CalWORKs, counties must establish that the evacuee was living in a county designated as a federal disaster and/or state-declared emergency zone and ask if the evacuee or anyone else in their family is receiving CalWORKs from that county or another disaster county.

Counties are encouraged to offer CalWORKs diversion to evacuees to address their specific crisis or item of need.

Disaster assistance from federal, state or local government or disaster assistance organizations is excluded from consideration as income.

For new applicants, counties should pay special attention to homeless assistance, including that evacuees are entitled to an exception to the once in twelve months limitation, and to eligibility for immediate need payments.  A written statement from the applicant is sufficient to establish intent to establish residency in California and in the county of application for the foreseeable future.  For income, it is expected that some evacuees will no longer have reasonably anticipated income because of the disaster.  For property and resources, counties must consider the applicant’s ability to access, occupy or sell their property at the time of application because of the disaster.

For families temporarily separated because of the disaster, a family member is considered temporary absent if they expect to reunite within one full calendar month.  CalWORKs recipients can maintain a home in a different county than the county they are physically residing in if they intend to return to that home within four months.

Evacuated families should make a good cause determination for nonparticipation in welfare-to-work activities.  Counties should also determine if an applicant needs barrier removal services such as mental health services or housing stabilization program services and provide these services as expeditiously as possible.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter, October 29, 2019.)

CalWORKs Home Visiting Program

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued instructions about the Home Visiting Program (HVP) which is a voluntary program that connects new parents with a nurse or other trained professional who makes regular visits to the client’s home to provide guidance, coaching, access to prenatal and postnatal care, and other health and social services.  HVP also encourages clients to enroll their child, and volunteer in, an early learning setting.

In order to be eligible for HVP, in a county where HVP is offered, an individual must be pregnant or the parent or caretaker relative of a child under age 24 months and one of the following: a member of a CalWORKs assistance unit, the parent or caretaker relative in a child-only case, applied for CalWORKs within 60 days of reaching the second trimester or preganacy or apparently eligible for CalWORKs.

HVP participants can be either mandatory or voluntary welfare-to-work participants.  All HVP hours and any time spent volunteering in an early learning setting must be assigned in the welfare-to-work plan and count toward welfare-to-work participation requirements.  However, HVP participants are not required to participate in welfare-to-work or to have a welfare-to-work plan.  CalWORKs time on aid limits do not prevent accessing HVP services.

HVP clients in welfare-to-work are entitled to supportive services.

(ACL 19-42, July 11, 2019 and ACL 19-42E, October 7, 2019.)


Temporary Homeless Assistance increase final regulations

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued final regulations implementing the increase in the daily payment amount for temporary homeless assistance.  The daily temporary homeless assistance rate for a family of up to four is increased from $65 to $85 per night.  Each additional family member still increases the rate by $15, but the daily maximum for a family of 8 is increased from $125 to $145 per night.  (ACIN I-64-19, October 15, 2019.)

CalWORKs Home Visiting Initiative

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding  aspects of the CalWORKs Home Visiting Initiative (HVI).  HVI authorizes voluntary home visits for certain CalWORKs households to support positive health, development and well-being outcomes for pregnant and parenting women, families and infants born into poverty.

Contractors must ensure that all home visitors receive implicit bias and cultural competency training.  Contractors are encouraged to partner with local organizations to develop a curriculum that best suits the needs of home visiting program participants.  Beyond required minimum training standards, counties are strongly encouraged to recruit home visitors who are culturally and linguistically matched to the CalWORKs population served, utilize culturally relevant community-based partners for resource and referral services, and integrate cultural competency into other training topics.

Counties must provide an informing notice about HVI in the CalWORKs intake packet.  CDSS provided a sample informing notice.

CDSS also provided a sample outreach flyer.  Counties must produce outreach documents in languages that “best represent the clients they are serving.”

Counties can provide $500 for the purchase of material goods during the course of home visiting services.  Material goods include child safety kits, car seats, appliance repairs and adaptive equipment for children with disabilities.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter, April 25, 2019.)

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.)