CalWORKs eligibility for disaster victims and evacuees

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a reminder about regulations an policies for processing CalWORKs applications and documents on behalf of disaster victims and evacuees.

For evacuees who apply for CalWORKs, if the applicant and the county make a good faith effort to obtain verification and are unable to do so, the county must accept the evacuee’s statements signed under penalty of perjury in lieu of verification.

When an individual or family displaced by fires applies for CalWORKs, counties must establish that the evacuee was living in a county designated as a federal disaster and/or state-declared emergency zone and ask if the evacuee or anyone else in their family is receiving CalWORKs from that county or another disaster county.

Counties are encouraged to offer CalWORKs diversion to evacuees to address their specific crisis or item of need.

Disaster assistance from federal, state or local government or disaster assistance organizations is excluded from consideration as income.

For new applicants, counties should pay special attention to homeless assistance, including that evacuees are entitled to an exception to the once in twelve months limitation, and to eligibility for immediate need payments.  A written statement from the applicant is sufficient to establish intent to establish residency in California and in the county of application for the foreseeable future.  For income, it is expected that some evacuees will no longer have reasonably anticipated income because of the disaster.  For property and resources, counties must consider the applicant’s ability to access, occupy or sell their property at the time of application because of the disaster.

For families temporarily separated because of the disaster, a family member is considered temporary absent if they expect to reunite within one full calendar month.  CalWORKs recipients can maintain a home in a different county than the county they are physically residing in if they intend to return to that home within four months.

Evacuated families should make a good cause determination for nonparticipation in welfare-to-work activities.  Counties should also determine if an applicant needs barrier removal services such as mental health services or housing stabilization program services and provide these services as expeditiously as possible.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter, October 29, 2019.)