Changes to CalWORKs student rules

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties about changes to CalWORKs student rules.  These changes modify the student program established by SB 1232, and implemented by ACL 21-04E, summarized here.  CDSS is now calling this program Student Training and Education Program (STEP).  The program includes standard supportive services payments, not needed to complete job search, and welfare-to-work counting three hours of study time for each hour of class time.

The most important change is STEP participants are no longer required to participate in welfare-to-work activities during school breaks.  This includes within terms and between terms, winter and summer breaks, and transfer periods between institutions.  This means that bridging activities and bridging activity plans can no longer be required.  STEP participants can volunteer to participate during breaks and are entitled to supportive services in the same way that all volunteer participants are.

The STEP program now includes non-profit postsecondary institutions in addition to public postsecondary institutions.

Students who are not eligible for STEP must not be enrolled in a Self-Initiated Program instead.

For purposes of STEP, summer sessions are counted as quarters.  This means that full time students in the summer get a $375 standard supportive services payment, and part-time students get a $175 standard supportive services payment.

Counties no longer need to do a welfare-to-work plan for each new academic term.  However, students must have a plan to get supportive services. Counties cannot require a plan prior to advance paying supportive services.

Counties may now calculate a part-time STEP participant’s hours using either academic units or instruction hours.  Whether a student is full-time or part-time is determined by the institution.

STEP participants cannot be required to participate in orientation and appraisal more than once, unless the participant has had a break of at least one year in receiving aid or supportive services.  (ACL 24-32, May 10, 2024.)

CAPI undue hardship exception to transfer of assets rule

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding the undue hardship exception to the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) transfer of assets rule.

CAPI follows rules for the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program unless state law says otherwise.  For the SSI program, applicants or recipients cannot transfer assets for less than fair market value.  If a SSI applicant transfers resources for less than fair market value, they are subject to a period of ineligibility from the program of up to 36 months.  This rule applies to CAPI. If the county determines that there has been a transfer of assets for less than fair market value, the county must evaluate the case for exceptions to the transfer of assets rule, including the undue hardship exception.

Undue hardship exists if the claimant alleges that failure to receive CAPI would deprive them of food or shelter; and the individual’s total available funds (income and liquid resources) is less than the federal SSI benefit rate plus the state supplemental payment.  The county must accept a claimant’s documented allegation of deprivation of food or shelter unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.  Counties cannot consider receipt of CalFresh when determining whether a claimant has sufficient food, and cannot consider receipt of federal housing assistance when determining whether a claimant would be deprived of shelter without CAPI benefits.

For purposes of determining undue hardship, there is loss of shelter if the recipient would be subject to eviction without CAPI benefits, and there is no other affordable available, or there is no other available housing with necessary modifications for a disabled person.

The county must explain the undue hardship exception and econsider undue hardship in all cases where the county determines that there has been a transfer of assets for less than fair market value and no other exceptions apply.  If the county determines that undue hardship exists, the transfer of assets penalty is not imposed.  If the claimant states that there is no undue hardship, the county is not required to determine undue hardship, but must document the statement in the case file.

Undue hardship is a mnth-by-month determination.  Counties should determine undue hardship for six month periods and re-evaluate if the period of ineligibility lasts for more than six months.

For purposes of determining income for undue hardship, all income counts including the actual value of In Kind Support and Maintenance that is counted for purposes of CAPI.

For purposes of determining resources for undue hardship, all liquid resources, whether otherwise countable or excluded, count, except for designated burial funds or certain dedicated accounts. Any CAPI or SSI retained from prior months counts as a resource.

When determining countable income and resources, counties exclude 1) CAPI or SSI and items that are not countable as income for CAPI or SSI; 2) CalFresh benefits; 3) federally subsidized housing; 4) proceeds of a bona-fide loan.

For cases where CAPI benefits have already been granted, counties determine when the period of ineligibility started and develop the undue hardship for each prior month of the period of ineligibility.  (ACL 24-11, March 11, 2024.)

Lottery winnings match

The Income and Eligibility and Verification (IEVS) system now a has match with the California Lottery. The system will provide monthly reports of people who received over the maximum allowable resources for a CalFresh or disabled household.

Federal law requires CalFresh households to report substantial lottery and gambling winnings during the certification period within 10 days of receiving the winnings.  Substantial winnings is defined as a cash prize won in a single game, purchase of a ticket, hand or similar bet, which is equal to or greater than the resource limit for CalFresh elderly or disabled households.

The reason for this match is to comply with federal requirements.

When there is a match, counties must review the case information to determine if the household reported the lottery winnings.  Case narration is acceptable as a report of lottery winnings.  If the winnings have not been reported, the county must send a verification letter to the household within 45 days.  If the recipient does not respond to the letter with sufficient information to resolve the discrepancy, the county must discontinue the entire household. A household that is discontinued can reapply at any time, but the household cannot be considered categorically eligible for CalFresh.

For CalWORKs, if the assistance unit must be terminated if the lottery winnings take the household above the current CalWORKs resource limit.  (ACL 24-29, April 24, 2024.)

CalFresh denials for missing verification waiver extension

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued instructions regarding denials of CalFresh applications for failure to provide requested verification.  California has been granted an extension of a waiver by the federal government that allows counties to choose to deny CalFresh applications for failure to submit requested verification within 10 days of the written request even if 30 days have not passed since the application date.  The new waiver is in effect until April 30, 2029.  46 counties have chosen to implement this waiver.

Counties must meet several conditions to deny an application for failure to submit requested verification within 10 days of the written request even if 30 days have not passed since the application date including:

  • The county schedules an interview for all applicants who are not interviewed on the day of application. The county cannot deny the application prior to the 30th day if the household does not appear for the first scheduled interview.
  • The county sends a notice of denial on the 30th day after the date of application if the household does not appear for a scheduled interview and has not contact the county.
  • The household is given at least 10 days to submit missing information
  • The denial notice states why the application was denied and that the application will be reopened if the required verification is received within 30 days of the date of application and benefits will be provided from the date of application. (ACL 24-30, April 25, 2024.)

Verification and eligibility for public benefits for public interest parolees

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding verification and eligibility for persons paroled into the United States under Immigration and Naturalization Act section 212(d)(5), also known as public interest parolees, when determining eligibility for CalWORKs, CalFresh, California Food Assistance Program (CFAP), Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA), and Entrant Cash Assistance (ECA).

When someone entering the United States is granted parole status at a port of entry or District Office, they are given a DT code.

People who are paroled into the United States are eligible for CalWORKs.  In verifying parole status for CalWORKs, counties must accept documentation showing the DT code and the length of parole, and must not ask for additional verification.  Counties can ask for additional verification or run a SAVE match if the length of parole is unclear.  Counties must review CalWORKs applications received after June 30, 2023 and were denied for failure to provide additional verification of parole status, and retroactively approve aid if the family is otherwise eligible.  When the recipient’s parole term expires, counties must evaluate whether the family meets another eligible noncitizen category.

Office of Refugee Resettlement eligible parolees are eligible for RCA or ECA if they meet all other program eligibility requirements.  Any CalWORKs applicant with a DT code who is found ineligible for CalWORKs should be evaluated for RCA and ECA. Counties must review RCA applications received after June 30, 2023 and were denied for failure to provide additional verification of parole status, and retroactively approve aid if the family is otherwise eligible.

To be eligible for CalFresh, a parolee must have a duration of parole into the United States of at least one year, and must have been in the United States for 5 years.

To be eligible for CFAP, a parolee must have a duration of parole into the United States of at least one year.  CFAP does not have the 5 year waiting period requirement. (ACL 24-27, April 24, 2024.)

Child Support pass through in former assistance cases

Effective May 1, 2024, all child support collections in cases where the family previously received CalWORKs benefts, including collections assigned to arrears owed to the government for recoupment of CalWORKs benefits, will be paid to the family receiving child support.  This change is not retroactive.  Collections in former assistance cases made before May 1, 2024 can still be retained by the government agency to recoup CalWORKs benefits paid to the family.

Effective May 1, 2024, child support collections that are passed through in cases where the family previously received CalWORKs, will count towards reimbursing the government agency for CalWORKs previously received by the family.  Any child support collected that exceeds the amount of CalWORKs received by the family will be passed through to the family.

Any pass through payments that cannot be delivered to the former aid recipient within six months will be retained by the government agency to recoup CalWORKs that was paid.  The former recipient has 12 months after the payment is used for CalWORKs recoupment to make a claim for that payment.  If the former aid recipient is deceased, collected child support will be used to recoup CalWORKs that was previously paid. (CSSI Letter 24-04, May 1, 2024.)