The California Department of Social Services has updated its guidance and provided policy reminders regarding the support of domestic abuse survivors through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program. Before the implementation of AB 2277, the County Welfare Department (CWD) had the option to waive certain program requirements for a recipient who was identified as a past or present survivor of abuse if the CWD determined good cause existed. AB 2277 has changed this option to make it a requirement for the CWD to waive program requirements for recipients identified as past or present survivors of abuse. However, certain eligibility requirements can’t be waived including deprivation, assets, income, and homeless assistance (HA) except as detailed below.
Counties must provide informing materials about domestic abuse at application, the beginning of welfare-to-work services, and recertification.
County staff are required to recognize indicators of abuse to the best of their ability. Staff interacting with survivors must make every effort not to reinforce trauma by being aware of triggers that cause reactions to trauma. Using a trauma-informed lens, staff must make efforts to ensure that the program and waiver process are accessible and built around the client’s needs.
Counties can give good cause waivers if they determine there is a condition or circumstance that impairs or prevents the recipient’s ability to participate in Welfare-to-Work (WTW) activities. Program requirements that the county can waive include, but are not limited to: time limit on aid, paternity establishment, child support cooperation, and proof of age-appropriate immunizations for children under the age of six Sworn statements by survivors of abuse are enough to verify abuse. County staff must not require identifying details of abuse or the abuser. Adults who receive Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI), non-needy caregiver relatives, and ineligible non-citizens cannot be given good cause waivers. Counties may not condition these waivers upon participation in specific activities, including attending counseling.
Domestic abuse waivers stop the CalWORKs time on aid clock. Domestic abuse survivors can have their time on aid clock extended and be added to the Assistance Unit when they meet good cause criteria.
Counties must have written policies for re-evaluating good cause waivers and the granting of good cause waivers retroactively. These waivers must be reviewed every three months to ensure the survivor’s needs are met. Waivers must continue to be granted if the effects of abuse are impacting the family. Counties must also establish criteria for granting good cause waivers retroactively. These waivers can be given for more than three months when the failure to grant the waiver was due to errors by the CWD. These criteria must be provided in the county’s domestic abuse policies and procedures.
Survivors are also eligible for programs including permanent or temporary CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA) to the maximum allowable amount and can be granted exceptions of up to an additional 48 days of temporary HA. Survivors may also be eligible for CalFresh benefits and receive expedited services and an additional month of benefit allotment as a separate household.
Non-citizen survivors certified by the Office of Trafficking in Persons (OTIP) who are eligible are entitled to the same benefits as those admitted to the United States as refugees. Non-citizens who are not eligible for CalWORKS may be eligible for state-funded benefits and services through the Trafficking and Crime Victims Assistance Program (TCVAP). Certain non-citizen survivors who are certified by OTIP may be eligible to receive Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) or Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA). (ACL 23-109, December 29, 2023.)