COVID-19 emergency procedures for CAPI

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has extended certain COVID-19 emergency procedures for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.

The CAPI face-to-face interview requirement will continue to be waived through the end of the State of Emergency in California.  Counties must accept CAPI applications by telephone, mail, fax and email.

The waiver of the requirement for CAPI applicants to submit proof of SSI application denial because of immigration status expires on December 31, 2020.  After December 31, 2020, and through the end of the State of Emergency in California, the SSI ineligibility requirement may be met by verification that an SSI application has been filed and is pending final determination.  Counties must get a copy of the application summary letter issued by SSI after the applicant completes a SSI application.  Verbal attestations of having applied for SSI will not longer be acceptable after December 31, 2020.

Counties can check the MEDS system for proof that the CAPI applicant applied for SSI and was denied because of immigration status.  (ACL 20-143, December 18, 2020.)

COVID-19 civil rights obligations

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides guidance to counties regarding meeting their civil rights obligations in emergency situations.  Civil rights laws remain in effect when counties take emergency actions such as closing physical offices to the public, shortening office hours, or requiring staff to work from home.

Counties must provide services and administer programs free of discrimination.  During emergencies there can be heightened fear and anxiety leading to increased acts of xenophobia, racism, ableism, transphobia and many other forms of prejudice toward protected classes.  Counties should remind their staff to be mindful of the additional stress and anxiety of their clients.  CDSS recommends that counties make statements that reaffirm their commitment to civil rights protections both internally among their staff and externally to the public.  CDSS also recommends that counties provide refresher trainings to staff on how to provide service in an inclusive, culturally appropriate and sensitive manner.

Counties should remind staff to use the name provided by a person, even if it is different from the name on their record.  County staff should not make assumptions about a person’s sex, gender, gender identity and/or sexual orientation based on their name, their gender expression, their spouse or partner’s name, or their voice, and should use gender neutral language to foster an inclusive environment, until and unless the individual has identified their gender.

It is important to remind staff that COVID-19 is not linked to any race or nationality, and that stigmatizing people because of race or nationality is unlawful.

Counties must ensure that clients are notified of and can obtain information about programs or program changes, including changes in response to emergencies such as shortening office hours or increasing availability of phone interviews.  Counties must publicize this information in understandable and diverse formats in the threshold languages required by law.  Counties must also adopt communication methods that are understandable to people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial impairments.

When offices are closed or have shortened hours, office-related activities must continue to meet accessibility and non-discrimination standards.

Services and programs must remain accessible to people with disabilities as counties make changes during an emergency.  If a county designates a location for pick up/drop off of applications and forms, it must comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations for physical accessibility.

During medical emergencies such as COVID-19, if persons are advised to stay home, counties should ensure live or recorded messages are available in American Sign Language, Teletypewriter, and Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, and include captioning.  Counties can also consider designating office hours for people with disabilities or other vulnerable people.

Documents and postings on social media with images should have captions and images should be inclusive and not stigmatize disability.

Counties must continue to provide accommodations for people who have vision, hearing or speech disabilities.  Counties must provide auxiliary aids and services when necessary to communicate effectively.

Counties must continue to offer reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities.  This obligation does not end at intake.  If a county staff member have actual knowledge of an individual’s disability or an individual’s need for an accommodation is obvious, the staff member must offer to assist the individual in self-identifying the disability and/or appropriate accommodations.  County staff should check for disability indicators in the case file prior to contact with the client.  Reasonable accommodations must be offered regardless of the method of contact. There is no limit on the amount of reasonable accommodation requests a person may make, and each request must be analyzed individually.

Counties must make sure they have adequate qualified interpreters and qualified translation services to assist Limited English Proficient individuals.  Counties must continue to maintain up-to-date lists of bilingual staff and remind staff of how to access these individuals.  Counties must also ensure that staff are trained in accessing alternate interpreter resources, including telephonic or video interpretation.

Clients maintain the right to file a discrimination complaint during an emergency or disaster.  Counties are reminded of their duty to actively receive and process civil rights complaints. Complaints can be made verbally or in writing.  Counties cannot require complainants to complete a form as a condition of filing a complaint.  (ACIN I-69-20, November 9, 2020.)

CAPI couples benefit rate calculation

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued clarification about benefit calculation rules for Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) couples when these individuals are determined eligible for CAPI in different months.

When both spouses are eligible for CAPI, the benefit payment for each spouse is one-half of the CAPI couple payment standard.

When one spouse is aged, and the other spouse is under 65 and has applied for CAPI based on disability, the aged spouse receives the CAPI individual rate until the other spouse is determined eligible.  When both spouses are found eligible, the couples payment standard is applied, and each spouse will receive one-half of the couples rate.  Retroactive payment for the newly eligible spouse will be the difference between the amount the couple would have received and what the aged member received as an individual CAPI recipient.

When one spouse is aged, and the other spouse under 65 and is presumptively disabled, the couple should be granted the CAPI couple rate.

When one spouse is aged and the other spouse is almost age 65 but not blind or disabled the spouse who is over age 65 will receive the individual CAPI rate until the other spouse becomes eligible for CAPI, at which time the couple will begin to get the couples rate.

When one spouse is aged and applying CAPI for the first time, and the other spouse is requesting reinstatement of CAPI the couple will begin receiving the benefit rate the first month that the first spouse’s application is granted and the second spouse’s benefits are reinstated.  (ACIN I-66-20, September 10, 2020.)

New revision of CAPI Indigence Exception form

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has revised the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) indigence exception form SOC 813.  These changes reflect that, as explained in ACL 20-79, summarized here, CalFresh and housing subsidies will no longer be counted as income for purposes of determining eligibility for the CAPI indigence exception to sponsor deeming.  ACIN I-34-19, summarized here, which transmitted the prior version of the SOC 813 form and included the prior policy, is superceeded.  (ACIN I-61-20, August 13, 2020.)

CAPI acceptance of expired LPR cards

Effective immediately, counties must accept expired Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) cards when determining eligibility for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI).  If a claimant presents an expired LPR card, the county must verify immigration status using the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system.  The county must accept an expired LPR card and grant benefits as otherwise eligible if the LPR card can be verified through SAVE.

This policy applies to any administrative hearing or rehearing that is currently pending.  (ACL 20-88, August 5, 2020.)

Discontinuing counting housing subsidies and CalFresh as income for CAPI indigence exception

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties that, effective June 24, 2020, CalFresh and housing subsidies will not count as income for purposes of determining eligibility for the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) indigence exception to sponsor deeming.  Counties must reassess and reverse any CAPI denials based solely on inclusion of housing subsidies or CalFresh in determining eligibility for the sponsor deeming indigence exception that were issued by the county on or after June 24, 2020.

The requirement not to count housing subsidies or CalFresh in determining eligibility for the indigence exception to sponsor deeming applies to any hearing or rehearing effective June 24, 2020.  (ACL 20-79, July 7, 2020.)