New identity verification regulations

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued regulations regarding identity verification for CalWORKs and CalFresh applicants.  These regulations repeal the finger-imaging requirement and replace them with a photo identification requirement.

Parents or caretaker relatives, each aided or applicant adult, and aided or applicant pregnant women must now provide photo identification.  Non-minor dependants, non-needy caretaker relatives applying for a relative foster child and applicants whose photo identification is part of a previous case file are exempt.  CalWORKs applicants will have 15 days from the date of application to provide photo identification.  The 15 days timeframe can be extended for good cause.  If after a good faith effort the applicant cannot provide photo id without paying a fee, the county must pay that fee.

Benefits can be issued prior to submitting the photo identification if the applicant is eligible for CalWORKs immediate need, the applicant does not have photo identification and signs a statement under penalty of perjury regarding identity, or if the applicant is applying remotely through telephone or other electronic means.  The applicant must provide photo identification within 15 working days or present evidence of good faith efforts to obtain photo identification for benefits to continue.  (ACIN I-66-19, November 15, 2019.)

Housing and Disability Advocacy Program guidance

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued updated program guidance regarding the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP).  HDAP offers funding to county agencies or tribal governments to assist homeless disabled individuals with applying for disability benefits programs while providing housing assistance.  39 counties currently have HDAP programs.  HDAP requires grantees to offer outreach, case management, advocacy and housing assistance concurrently.

Assistance should be provided until disability benefits are granted and the participant is stabilized in permanent housing. A dollar-for-dollar grantee match is also required.

There are several changes to the program because of legislation in 2019.  These changes include: 1) Funding is now available for federally recognized tribal governments; 2) Priority for assistance is for chronically homeless individuals or homeless persons who rely most heavily on government-funded services; 3) Programs can consider providing housing assistance after disability benefits are granted until housing placement is stable and affordable; 4) Case management staff must assist in developing a transition plan for housing support when disability benefits are granted or denied.

HDAP continues its principles of housing first, collaboration among programs and prioritizing assistance is for chronically homeless individuals or homeless persons who rely most heavily on government-funded services.  Providing services on first-come, first-served basis or by most likely to find housing is improper.

Required program components continue to be outreach, case management, benefits advocacy and housing assistance.  Limiting outreach to General Assistance/General Relief applicants or recipients is insufficient.

Additional program components include transition planning, workforce development for participants not likely to be eligible for disability benefits, interim assistance reimbursement, and data gathering.  (ACL 19-104, November 1, 2019.)

Third Party Assessment Process

The California Department of Social Services has issued a clarification regarding its policy regarding referral for third party assessment when the county and the participant cannot agree on a welfare-to-work (WTW) assessment or a WTW plan.

If the participant does not agree with the results of their WTW assessment and does not reach an agreement with the county about their WTW plan, the county must refer the participant to an impartial third party for an independent assessment.  The county must refer for a third party assessment if the county and the participant do not agree on WTW assessment or the unsigned plan or a signed WTW plan in limited circumstances.

Prior to the appraisal, counties must provide an orientation that informs participants of their right to a third party assessment.  Participants must sign Rights and Responsibilities (WTW 1) and the Plan Activities form (WTW 2), each of which inform the participant of their right to a third party assessment.

After the plan is signed, the client has a once-in-a-lifetime 30 day grace period from the beginning of the WTW activity to request a change in the plan or reassignment to another activity.  The county must grant the request if another assignment is available, is consistent with the WTW plan, and the county determines the other activity will lead to employment.  The participant can request a third party assessment during the 30 day grace period.

The county must allow the participant three working days after signing the plan or amendments to the plan to request changes.  During the three working days after signing the plan, the participant can request a third party assessment.  If the participant expresses dissatisfaction with the plan in the first three working days, it will not trigger the use of the client’s once-in-a-lifetime 30 day grace period.  If the participant expresses dissatisfaction with the plan after three working days and has not used their once-in-a-lifetime 30 day grace period, the county can apply the 30 day grace period and grant a third party assessment.

The participant must adhere to the signed WTW plan if it is after the three working day or 30 day grace periods.  The county can revised a WTW plan at any time if it is in the best interest of the participant to do so.

The results of a third party assessment are binding and used by the client and the county to create an appropriate plan.  The participant is not entitled to a state hearing to challenge the assessment until a third party assessment has been performed. (ACIN I-03-19, January 17, 2019.)

Errata to EBT surcharge free ATM network

CDSS has issued an errata to its ACIN regarding the surcharge free ATM network.

The ACIN stated that MoneyPass would be surcharge free only until September 30, 2018. The errata states that the MoneyPass Network will remain surcharge free until at least September 30, 2018.

The ACIN stated that Bank of American ATMs would be surcharge free.The errata states that cardholders withdrawing from Bank of America ATMs will incur a surcharge which will be refunded within 24 to 48 hours with no action required by the cardholder.  (ACIN I-39-18E, August 3, 2018.)

CalFresh exclusion of funeral agreement from resources

CDSS has provided implementing instructions for changes to federal regulations that exclude the cash value of one funeral agreement per household member when determining if a household meets the resource limit.

Most households in California are not required to meet the resource limit.  For the households that must meet the resource limit, such as elderly and disabled households with gross income above 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the case value of one funeral agreement per household member will now be excluded when determining whether the household meets the resource test.  (ACL 18-16, February 14, 2018.)

Disaster CalFresh changes

CDSS has provided implementing instructions for changes to Disaster CalFresh (D-CalFresh) mandated by AB 607.  CDSS and counties must now request to operate D-CalFresh when the President of the United States issues a major disaster declaration.  The request must include a waiver request to provide automatic, mass replacement of CalFresh benefits to eligible, ongoing CalFresh households affected by disaster and a waiver request to allow households to purchase hot, prepared food at authorized retailers with D-CalFresh benefits.  An automatic mass replacement waiver can be requested without a Presidential Declaration.

Effective January 1, 2018, all counties must submit a CalFresh disaster plan annually.  CDSS, in consultation with counties and additional stakeholders, must identify the necessary elements of a county disaster plan.  CalFresh disaster plans must identify mutual aid regions consisting of two or more counties.

CDSS must offer D-CalFresh training to all counties, organizations, and institutions receiving federal reimbursements, including private nonprofits, public postsecondary education institutions or other state or local agencies that secure funds federal funds for CalFresh outreach.

CDSS must maintain updated D-CalFresh materials, including state and county disaster plans, the D-CalFresh application, a D-CalFresh webpage, and D-CalFresh outreach flyers.

Upon county request, CDSS must provide necessary support for out-stationed D-CalFresh application intake locations and make available technology and equipment for mobile issuance of EBT cards to D-CalFresh recipients.

AB 607 also allows a CalWORKs recipient to be out of the state for more than 60 days because of displacement caused by a disaster declared by the Governor or the President.  (ACL 18-17, February 28, 2018.)