COVID-19 CalWORKs overpayments

All CalWORKs overpayments established on or after August 1, 2021 for the period April, 2020 to either the end of the COVID-19 state of emergency or June 30, 2022, whichever is earlier, must be classified as administrative error.

Overpayment claims that include any month during the COVID-19 state of emergency must be classified as administrative error, regardless of the cause of the overpayment.  For example, an overpayment from November, 2019 to April, 2020 must be classified as administrative error because one month of the overpayment period is during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

Counties are reminded that unearned income must be paired with earned income for that month to be considered over the Income Reporting Threshold and thus triggering a mid-period reporting obligation.  Counties are also reminded that failure to report a change of address cannot, in and of itself, result in a reduction or termination of aid.  Failure to report an address change cannot be the basis of an overpayment allegation.

These rules also apply to Refugee Cash Assistance, Entrant Cash Assistance and Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program.  (ACL 21-85, August 5, 2021.)

End of federal pandemic unemployment benefits and federal extension benefits

Federal unemployment benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic end on September 4, 2021.  The programs ending on September 4, 2021 are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC).  The Employment Development Department will accept application for PUA for 30 days thereafter for benefits for before September 4.  Any pending claims for these benefits will be processed after the September 4 deadline if the claimant is later determined eligible.

The 20-week FED-ED extension will also expire because California’s economic conditions no longer meet the threshold for FED-ED.  The 7-week FED-ED extension will end on August 8, 2021.  The 13-week FED-ED extension will likely end on September 4. FED-ED extensions will be recalculated to a maximum 13 weeks starting August 8, but likely will not be payable after September 4.

Full federal reimbursement for the Work Sharing program also expires on September 4.  Federal funding to support reimbursement for employers who do not contribute to the State Trust Fund also expires on September 4.  (EDD News Release 21-39, July 30, 2021.)

COVID-19 financial support for at-risk families

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided information about financial support for eligible at-risk families with child welfare contact during the COVID-19 state of emergency.  Financial support is up to $600 per eligible household, or up to $1,200 for eligible households with three or more children at risk of entering foster care.

Households are eligible if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Households with a Family Maintenance service component without a subsequent entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with an Emergency Response service component without a subsequent entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with a substantiated ER referral, without an accompanying case opening or entry into FC.
  • Households with an inconclusive ER referral, without an accompanying case opening or entry into FC, where the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment was considered “high” or “very high.”
  • Probation cases where a child was at “imminent” or “serious” risk of removal or was a candidate for FC.
  • Households where a child was returned for a Trial Home Visit (THV)

All categories include cases identified in May, 2021, and new eligible families identified in June through December, 2021 depending on availability of funds.

County child welfare services agencies will get a list of potentially eligible clients, with instructions for ensuring client eligibility.  County probation departments will give CDSS lists of eligible families.

Prepaid cards will be issued to eligible families.  Open Family Maintenance, Trial Home Visit, Emergency Response cases, probation candidates, and Substantiated Referrals will receive a one-time $600 payment ($1,200 if the family has three or more children at risk of entering Foster Care). Families determined to be at “High” or “Very High” risk with an inconclusive referral will receive a total one-time $300 payment ($600 if the family has three or more children at risk of entering Foster Care).

Families who receive a payment under one eligibility category will not receive a second payment if their case moves to another category.

These funds do not count as income for CalWORKs or CalFresh.

(ACL 21-83, July 21, 2021.)

COVID-19 Treatment of Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund payments in various programs

The California Department of Social Services has provided guidance regarding treatment of the one-time payment issued to CalWORKs recipients pursuant to the Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund (PEAF) for CalWORKs, CalFresh and Medi-Cal.  The PEAF payment was a $640 payment to CalWORKs recipients that was issued on July 10, 2021.  PEAF is to assist low income families impacted by COVID-19.

PEAF does not count as income for CalWORKs and CalFresh and does not count as a resource for 12 months after receipt.  Both MAGI and non-MAGI Medi-Cal treat the PEAF payment as a disaster payment which does not count as income.

Families who received the PEAF payment were informed of the payment by phone and email message during the week of July 12, 2021.

The PEAF payment does not tick either the CalWORKs or federal TANF time-on-aid clocks.

The PEAF payment will not impact the amount of the CalWORKs unreimbursed assistance pool for purposes of child support distribution.

Lost PEAF payments can only be replaced if the assistance unit incurs skimming or scamming of their benefits.  (ACL 21-65, July 22, 2021.)

COVID-19 updates to IHSS changes

The California Department of Social Services has provided information about the status of changes to In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) policies because of COVID-19.

Counties should continue to use video-conferencing for IHSS initial assessments when the applicant or someone in the household has been infected with COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, or has been exposed to COVID-19 in the two weeks prior to the initial assessment. Counties may continue to use telephone or videoconferencing for annual reassessments as needed until the end of the State of Emergency in California

Counties may continue to accept self-attestation instead of original signatures on most required forms through September 30, 2021.  Original signatures are required on the SOC 321 for Paramedical Services, the SOC 839 Authorized Representative form, and the SOC 862 Request for Provider Waiver.  Original signatures are required on new forms beginning October 1, 2021.

Counties continue to allow a 45-day good cause extension for submitting the SOC 873 Health Care Certification Form through September 30, 2021.

The current emergency provider backup system for IHSS recipients whose providers cannot work because of COVID-19 is extended to December 31, 2021.

Provider enrollment requirements were waived between April and August, 2021.  Providers who have not yet completed orientation now have until September 30, 2021 to complete orientation.  Provider orientation can be done remotely.

Waiving of presentation and photocopying of original documentation for providers is waived until September 30, 2021.  On or after October 1, 2021, applicant providers must present original documentation verifying identity.

For Quality Assurance/Program Integrity Home Visits, counties should continue to use videoconferencing if when the applicant or someone in the household has been infected with COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19, or has been exposed to COVID-19 in the two weeks prior to the initial assessment until the end of the State of Emergency.  (ACL 21-79, July 19, 2021.)

COVID 19 counting of emergency assistance for SSI

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued policy guidance regarding counting of COVID-19 emergency assistance as income or resources for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  With this guidance, Social Security is lifting the hold on cases involving unemployment, state stimulus payments, and those with any remaining CARES Act stimulus payments.

The following pandemic related assistance types are excluded as income and resources for SSI:  CARES Act, Consolidated Appropriations Act and American Rescue Plan Act stimulus payments; all regular and pandemic unemployment received during the pandemic period,; Paycheck Protection Act and Loan Forgiveness to Employers and Self-Employed persons; Economic Injury Disaster Program loans and grants to employers and self-employed persons,; Tribal payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds; the Golden State Stimulus and Golden State Grant payments; COVID-19 Funeral Assistance; Emergency Rental Assistance Funds; Emergency Assistance for Rural Housing and Rural Rental Assistance; Homeowner Assistance Funds; Housing Assistance and Supportive Services Programs for Native Americans; Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds; Supporting Foster Youth and Families during the Pandemic; COVID-19 Veteran Rapid Retraining Assistance Program; Emergency Assistance to Children and Families through the Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund; Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Direct Payments to Farmers and Ranchers; Farm Loan Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers; and USDA Assistance and Support for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers; Ranchers, Forest Land Owners and Operators and Groups.

For state stimulus payments from Maryland and New Mexico are also excluded as income and resources.  Stimulus payments from other states are evaluated by the Social Security regional office.

Benefits that are counted as income and resources are: Paycheck Protection Program Wage Payments to Employees; Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program Wage Payments to Employees; Hazard Duty Pay; Qualified Disaster Distribution or Use of Retirement Funds; and Paid Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Benefits that are excluded as income or resources for reasons other than being disaster relief are: Temporary Expansion of Child Tax Credit for 2021; Qualified Disaster Loans to Retirement Plan Participants; Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; Low Income Home Water Assistance Program; Corporation for National and Community Service; and Emergency Broadband Benefit.  (EM-20014 REV 3, July 23, 2021, and EM-21050, July 23, 2021.)