Eligibility of Afghan Humanitarian Parolees for Refugee Resettlement Program, CalWORKs, CalFresh and SSI

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance regarding eligibility of Afghan Humanitarian Parolees Afghanistan for Refugee Resettlement Program, CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits.

Humanitarian Parolees are not eligible for Refugee Cash Assistance or any other Office of Refugee Resettlement programs.

Humanitarian Parolees are eligible for CalWORKs from the day they are paroled into the United States.

Humanitarian Parolees are not eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  Humanitarian Parolees are eligible for Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.

Humanitarian Parolees are eligible for CalFresh only if they have been paroled into the United States for at least one year, and, among other factors, have lived in the United States for qualified aliens, have 40 quarters of qualifying work, or are children under age 18.

Humanitarian Parolees are eligible for the California Food Assistance Program when the have been paroled into the United States for one year or more.

Regardless of documentation provided, the county must submit these cases to the SAVE system for immigration status verification. (ACWDL, September 3, 2021 and Errata, September 17, 2021.)

Eligibility of Afghan Special Immigrant Parolees for Refugee Resettlement Program, CalWORKs, CalFresh and SSI

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance regarding eligibility of Special Immigrant Visa holders and special immigrant parolees in the SQ/SI categories (collectively called Special Immigrant Parolees) from Afghanistan for Refugee Resettlement Program, CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits.

Special Immigrant Parolees are eligible for Refugee Cash Assistance, Refugee Medical Assistance and other Office of Refugee Resettlement programs.  A Social Security Number is not required to be eligible for these programs.

Special Immigrant Parolees and their families are eligible for CalWORKs effective on their date of entry to the United States.

Special Immigrant Parolees are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  If for some reason Special Immigrant Parolees are found to be ineligible for SSI, the can be eligible for Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants.

Special Immigrant Parolees are immediately eligible for CalFresh.

Regardless of documentation provided, the county must submit these cases to the SAVE system for immigration status verification.  (ACWDL, August 30, 2021.)

Funding and rules changes for CDSS housing program

The Budget Act of 2021 appropriated $795 million for CDSS housing programs and made changes to program rules.

The CalWORKs Housing Support Program is intended to foster housing stability for families experiencing homelessness in the CalWORKs program.  Housing Support Program funds must be used to support projects that follow evidence-based housing interventions, including rapid rehousing.  All state-funded housing program must follow the core components of Housing First.  The Budget Act amended the program to expand eligibility to families at risk of homelessness, including families who have not yet received an eviction notice.

The Bringing Families Home Program provides housing related services to families receiving child welfare services, increase family reunification, and prevent foster care placements.  Funds can be used for evidence-based housing interventions including rapid rehousing, supportive housing and/or subsidies to make rental housing affordable.  The Budget Act amended the program to expand eligibility to families where the living situation cannot accommodate the child or multiple children in the home, and that families at risk of homelessness can include families who have not yet received an eviction notice.  The Budget Act also exempts counties and tribes from the dollar-for-dollar match requirements for one-time funds awarded between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2024.

The Housing and Disability Advocacy Program provides outreach, case management, disability benefits advocacy, and housing assistance.  The Budget Act amended the program to exempt counties and tribes from the dollar-for-dollar match requirements for one-time funds awarded between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2024, that individuals at risk of homelessness can include families who have not yet received an eviction notice, and that the interim assistance reimbursement requirement is waived through June 30, 2024.

The Home Safe Program provides housing-related assistance using evidence-based practices for homeless assistance and prevention for persons involved in Adult Protective Services. The Budget Act amended the program to include that persons at risk of homelessness can include families who have not yet received an eviction notice, that persons in the process of Adult Protective Services intake and individuals served through a tribal social services agency who appeal to be eligible for Adult Protective Services, and that counties and tribes from the dollar-for-dollar match requirements for one-time funds awarded between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2024.

The Budget Act appropriated an additional $150 million to continue Project Roomkey.  (ACWDL 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.)

Social Security Disability evaluation of COVID-19

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued policy guidance for evaluating adult disability cases that involve a diagnosis of COVID-19.

SSA needs objective evidence from an acceptable medical source to establish the existence of a medically determinable impairment for COVID-19, including long terms effects of COVID-19.

If a person as a medically determinable impairment of COVID-19, SSA must determine if the impairment is severe, and has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months.  SSA will not combine two unrelated medically determinable impairments to meet the 12 month requirement.  However, if COVID-19 causes a new medically determinable impairment, or worsens an existing medically determinable impairment, SSA will consider there medically determinable impairments to be related.

If a person recovers from COVID-19 with no residual symptoms, limitations or restrictions, COVID-19 will not meet the duration requirement.  However, symptoms associated with COVID-19 that last for months or longer after recovery may meet the 12 month requirement when a person has long-term effects of COVID-19, one or more new medically determinable impairments caused by COVID-19, or any existing medically determinable impairment worsens because of COVID-19.  SSA may need to project the severity if it is unclear whether the medically determinable impairment will resolve.

Issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including eviction, medical facility closure, quarantine, job loss and insurance loss, may affect the ability to seek treatment.  SSA should consider whether lack of treatment is because of these issues.

COVID-19 by itself cannot meet a listing but it may equal a listing as an unlisted impairment or as part of a combination of impairments.  COVID-19 may affect respiratory, cardiovascular, renal, neurological, or other body symptoms.  In most cases, the listing relevant to a new medically determinable impairment caused by COVID-19 or any medically determinable impairment that has worsened because of COVID-19 will be the appropriate listing to consider.

COVID-19 cannot be medically equivalent to Listing 3.14, respiratory failure, because an infection cannot be a chronic impairment for purposes of that listing.

When determining residual functional capacity, SSA will consider functional limitations from any new medically determinable impairment caused by COVID-19, or any medically determinable impairment that have worsened because of COVID-19.  (EM 21032, April 16, 2021.)

Interpretation of new Social Security musculoskeletal listings

On December 3, 2020, the Social Security Administration (SSA) published new listings for evaluating musculoskeletal disorders.  85 Fed. Reg. 78164.  In general, the new musculoskeletal disorders listings listings remove the “inability to ambulate effectively” criteria, have additional focus on the need for assistive devices, and require more lower-body conditions to be paired with restrictions on use of upper extremities.  The new listings became effective for cases filed after or pending after April 2, 2021.

SSA has issued additional guidance regarding the new musculoskeletal listings. When considering the need for assistive devices under the new listings, SSA is to consider the most restrictive device for which the claimant has a documented medical need.  The phrase documented medical need means evidence from a medical source that supports the medical need for an assistive device for a continuous period of at least 12 months.

The functional criteria in the new listings is met if the medical evidence shows that a claimant uses a wheeled and seated mobility device that involves the use of two hands with a documented needs lasting 12 consecutive months.  If the claimant uses a wheeled and seated mobility device that involves the use of one hand, SSA is to consider whether the claimant has a documented medical need for a two handed assistive device.  This evidence includes inability to bear weight on lower extremities, instability, inability to rise from a seated position without assistance or the use of both arms, significant weakness in the legs, or amputation of the lower extremities at or above the ankle with inability to use a prosthesis.

For certain of the new listings, all required criteria must be present simultaneously, or within a close proximity of time.  In evaluating listings with imaging requirements, SSA determines whether the findings on imaging are reasonably expected to have been present within a close proximity of time of the other required elements.  (EM-21027, April 2, 2021.)

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