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.)

CalWORKs mental health and substance abuse services

CDSS has provided information about changes to CalWORKs mental health and substance abuse services that are effective between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018.  For that period, counties can provide mental health and substance abuse services to children of CalWORKs recipients, and can contract with community-based providers and other local agencies to provide these services.

Children are eligible for these services if the parent(s) are participating or required to participate in Welfare –to-Work (WTW), exempt volunteers or are sanctioned or removed from CalWORKs for failure to comply with WTW requirements.  At the county’s discretion, services can be provided to children of adults who have a temporary WTW exemption.  Services can be provided to children of timed out clients as a post aid service.  Children of adults who are ineligible for CalWORKs are not eligible for services.

This funding must be used in addition to, and not as a substitute for, available mental health or substance abuse funding available from other government programs.  Funding cannot be used for services covered under Medi-Cal or a county mental health plan.

A parent cannot be sanctioned because of a child’s refusal to participate in mental health or substance abuse services.  Refusal or failure of an adult to participate in assigned activities does not prevent children from being referred to or receiving mental health or substance abuse services.

Counties can now send clients to community based providers, including county mental health departments, for mental health evaluations.  That provider must evaluate the recipient and determine any treatment needs, including the extent to which the individual is capable of employment and under what conditions the individual can work. The evaluation must be considered in development of the WTW plan.  Activities and services in the WTW plan must accommodate any restrictions associated with any mental, emotional or substance abuse condition identified in the evaluation.  (ACL 18-04, January 25, 2018.)

CalFresh face-to-face interviews

The California Department of Social Services has issued instructions regarding face-to-face interviews for applications and recertifications.  7 C.F.R. § 273.2(e)(2) now gives states the option to conduct interviews for applications and recertifications by telephone.  California has been conducting telephone interviews under a federal waiver.  Now, California has accepted the option in the federal regulation to do telephone interviews.

Counties will routinely conduct telephone interviews in lieu of face-to-face interviews at application and recertification for all CalFresh households regardless of the length of the household’s certification period length.  Counties may conduct face-to-face interviews if determined necessary.  However, if an in person interview in the office would be a hardship, the county must do a home visit for the interview.   Counties must inform applicants of the opportunity to have a face-to-face interview on request.   The county must provide a notice of missed interview if the applicant or recipient misses a telephone interview.  The application process cannot be negatively affected because the county does a telephone interview.   (ACL 17-80, July 31, 2017.)