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.)

Separation of SIU and eligibility determination functions

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a reminder to counties that management of eligibility determination and program integrity investigation must be separate.

County Special Investigative Unit (SIU) staff is responsible for preventing and discovering fraud by applicants and recipients.  SIU staff must investigate fraud allegations.  County eligibility workers are responsible for referring cases to the SIU.

The SIU must be a separate organization, independent of organizations performing eligibility and benefit determination functions.  Counties must ensure separate and independent operation of eligibility and investigation activities.  SIU staff cannot dictate CalWORKs or CalFresh eligibility determinations but can make recommendations.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter May 1, 2019.)

Reasonable accommodations in CDSS and DHCS programs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) have issued a joint letter reminding counties of their obligation to ensure equal access to persons with disabilities to state and federal funded programs.  This includes providing reasonable accommodations to qualified persons with disabilities and effective communication through auxiliary aids and services.  These obligations apply to all county administered programs, services and activities funded by, or with federal pass-through funds from CDSS and/or DHCS.  These obligations also apply to county contractors and vendors that provide program benefits or services.

Counties must adopt written policies detailing how they will comply with these requirements.  Counties must have a procedure for complaints regarding disability discrimination, including failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.  Counties must inform clients of the county complaint procedure and they may file discrimination complaints with the appropriate state or federal agency.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits counties from excluding from participation, denying benefits or services to, or discriminating against any qualified person with a disability.  A qualified person with a disability is a person with a disability who, with or without accommodation, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the program provided by the public entity.  Disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life functions, a record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment.  California law defines disability more broadly by removing the word “substantially” from the definition of disability, and counties are required to follow California law.  The ADA also guarantees equal access to individuals who have a relationship or association with a disabled person.

The ADA does not require public entities to allow a person with a disability to participate if that person poses a direct threat to health or safety of others.  However, the county must determine whether a person is a direct threat only evaluating whether reasonable accommodations can mitigate or eliminate the risk.  The determination of whether a person poses a direct threat must be made based on objective factual evidence and an individualized assessment.

The ADA requires counties to make reasonable accommodations by modifying their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to provide equal access to persons with disabilities.   This includes waiving a program rule or policy to help a person with a disability, or a change in the way a county carries out a policy or practice affecting a person with a disability.

Counties must notify all clients of the right to request reasonable accommodations and the protection against discrimination on the basis of disability.

When the county has actual knowledge of a disability or when the need for an accommodation is obvious, county staff must offer to assist with appropriate disability specific accommodations.  Counties are encouraged to train staff to identify disabilities and offer to assist identifying accommodations.

When an individual asks for a change in county policies, practices, or procedures because a disability, this request should be treated as a reasonable accommodation request.  While counties can make a reasonable accommodation request form available, counties cannot require individual to use a specific form for a reasonable accommodation request.   Reasonable accommodation requests can be made in person, by telephone or in writing by the individual or someone acting on the individual’s behalf.  It is not necessary that a person be an authorized representative to request a reasonable accommodation.  There is no limit to the number of accommodation requests a person can make, and each request must be individually evaluated.  Counties cannot impose an arbitrary limit on the duration of a reasonable accommodation.

County staff must document all reasonable accommodation requests and subsequent county actions in the individual’s case file.

If an accommodation is not immediately agreed upon, or if there is a disagreement about the appropriateness of a requested accommodation, county staff must engage in an interactive process with the individual requesting the accommodation or a person acting on their behalf.

A county can deny a reasonable accommodation request only when the accommodation would  fundamentally alter the nature of the program, service or activity, or would impose an undue financial or administrative burden taking into account all resources available to the program, service or activity.  The determination that an accommodation request would be a fundamental alternation or an undue burden must be made by the county welfare department director or designee and must be accompanied by a written statement of the reason for the decision.  If such a decision is made, the county must take alternative action to ensure that the person with a disability can access relevant benefits or services while avoiding a fundamental alteration or undue burden.

Counties cannot impose eligibility criteria that exclude or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities unless such criteria are shown to be necessary for the operation of the program.  Counties must provide programs, activities and services in the most integrated manner possible.  Counties cannot change individuals with disabilities for the cost of reasonable accommodations.

Counties must ensure effective communication with individuals who have vision, hearing or speech disabilities.   Communication with these individuals must be equally effective as communication with people who do not have these disabilities.  This requirement extends to companions of applicants or recipients.  For persons who are blind, have vision loss, or are deaf-blind, this requirement includes providing individuals with disabilities with auxiliary aids and services when necessary to communicate effectively. This can include providing written communication in large print, braille, accessible electronic format for use with a screen reader or via audio recording or a qualified reader.  For persons who are deaf, have hearing loss, or are deaf-blind, this requirement also includes providing a note taker, qualified sign language, oral, cued-speech or tactile interpreter, real-time captioning, telecommunication devices, or written materials.  For persons who have speech disabilities, this requirement includes providing a qualified transliterator.  Counties cannot require persons with communication disabilities to provide their own interpreter.  Counties may allow another adult accompanying an individual with a disability to interpret only in emergency situations or when requested by the persons with a disability.  Counties cannot rely on minors to interpret except in emergency situations when no other interpreter is available.

If counties choose to use Video Remote Interpreting, the service must meet specific technical performance standards.

Counties must consider how the individual normally communicates and must give primary consideration to a request for a particular auxiliary aid or service.

Counties must modify their policies, practices and procedures to allow individual with disabilities to use service animals on their premises.  Counties may not require certification or other proof that an animal has been trained or licensed as a service animal.  When it is not obvious what service an animal performs, county staff may only ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or tasks the animal is trained to perform.  (ACL 19-45, May 16, 2019.)

Use of the Work Number

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding use of the Work Number consumer credit report in determining initial and ongoing eligibility for various programs. 

For CalFresh, if documentary evidence of income is unavailable, for example because a household member did not provide or does not have access to necessary documentation at the time of the application or interview, the Work Number can be used to verify income in real time at application, during the certification period, at recertification, or for a Quality Control review.

Information obtained through the Work Number is not considered verified upon receipt which means the applicant or recipient must be consulted before the county can use the information.  If the information provided by the Work Number is consistent with information provided by the applicant or recipient, consultation is not necessary.  If the household confirms the information from the Work Number is accurate or there is no discrepancy, the Work Number can be used to verify income.

The Work number can be used in conjunction with, but not instead of existing required income and eligibility sources including IEVS.

Counties cannot require the household to submit additional documentation that is duplicative of information received through the Work Number.  Counties can request additional documentation only if the household states that the information is inaccurate or the Work Number does not verify all income sources.

If the county takes adverse action based on information from the Work Number, the notice of action must state the name, address and telephone number of the Work Number, a statement that the Work Number did not make the adverse decision, a statement of the right to obtain free disclosure of the consumer’s file within 60 days, and a statement of the consumer’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information provided by the Work Number.

Counties can use the Work Number to verify information received at initial application or recertification.  This can allow same day service when documentary evidence is not available on the day the application is submitted.

Counties can use the Work Number to verify a voluntary report of a change in income or to verify income information provided at periodic report.

For Quality Control reviews, counties can use the Work Number to substantiate information provided by the household or if the household refuses to cooperate.

For CalWORKs, counties can use the Work Number to verify information at application, redetermination and to determine ongoing eligibility.  The Work Number can be used to verify welfare-to-work information for Work Participation Rate purposes.  Counties can use the Work Number to verify income when transitioning clients from State One to Stage Two child care.

The Work Number cannot be used to verify a missing mandatory report of income over the Income Reporting Threshold.

For IEVS matches, if the client does not respond to the verification letter, the county can use the Work Number as the independent verification source.

The Special Investigations Unit can use the Work Number to verify information from IEVS. (ACL 19-08, February 9, 2019.)

Disability and domestic violence questions computer system flags

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued directions regarding AB 2030.  AB 2030 requires CDSS to include in any amendments or revisions to standard application or semi-annual reporting forms after January 1, 2019 that allow applicants or recipients to disclose disabilities, the need for reasonable accommodations because of a disability and any experiences of domestic violence. 

CDSS states that initial application forms and semiannual report will capture the need for reasonable accommodations the next time they are revised.

The current welfare computer system vary in how they flag reasonable accommodations.  CalWIN has an icon for disability accommodations that is displayed in the upper-right side of the “Display Individual Demographics Summary” window.  CalACES North (formerly known as C-IV) can flag cases with an indicator type that county users can select (special accommodations, special circumstances etc.)  CalACES South (formerly known as LRS) allows any county user with access to falg a case to alert the first point of contact.  These flags are identified by a banner at the top of every page.  (ACL 19-13, February 21, 2019.)

Expulsion from California State Preschool Programs

Expulsion from California State Preschool Programs

The California Department of Education (CDE) has issued instructions regarding expulsion or disenrollment from California State Preschool Programs for behavior.  These instructions implement AB 752 (2017).

Prior to expulsion or disenrollment for a child’s persistent and serious challenging behavior, the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractor must, within 180 days, take the following steps:

  1. Consult with the child’s parents or legal guardians and teacher to maintain the child’s safe participation in the program.
  2. Inform the parents or legal guardians of a child exhibiting persistent and serious challenging behaviors of how the CSPP will assist the child in order to safely continue to participate in the program.
  3. If the child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Support Plan (IFSP), and with the parent or guardian’s written consent, consult with the local educational agency or the local regional center on how to serve the child.
  4. If the child does not have an IEP or IFSP, consider (a) completing a universal screening including social and emotional development, (b) referring the parent or guardian to local community resources, and (c) implementing behavior supports, before referring the child to the local educational agency to request an assessment to determine the child’s eligibility for special education support and services, including a behavior intervention plan.
  5. If after these steps concerns about safe participation remain, the contractor will consult with the child’s parents or legal guardians, the child’s teacher, and if applicable, the local educational agency providing special education services to the child.
  6. If the contractor determines that the child’s continued enrollment would present a continued serious safety threat to the child or other enrolled children the contractor shall refer the parents or legal guardians to other potentially appropriate placements such as Resource and Referral agencies and programs, or other local referral services available in their community.
  7. Once the reasonable steps outlined above have been completed, the contracting agency may then disenroll the child, subject to the due process requirements and procedures.

CDE identified several resources regarding children with challenging behavior.  (Management Bulletin 18-06, August, 2018.)