COVID-19 CalFresh waiver of interview and signature requirements

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding federal waivers of the initial application interview and signature requirements.  These waivers are effective from March 27, 2020 to May 31, 2020.  The waivers can be applied to any application pending at the time of the release of the guidance.

Counties may waive the requirement for an interview at initial certification of eligibility for benefits if the county has verified the identity of the applicant and has completed all mandatory verifications.  Households entitled to expedited service and whose identity is verified within the three-day expedited service timeframe will have their initial interview waived prior to benefit issuance.  If an expedited service household does not provide missing mandatory verification, benefits will be discontinued per existing CDSS policy.

To verify identity counties must accept any readily available documentary evidence which reasonably establishes the applicant’s identity.  If documentary evidence is not readily available, counties may verify identity using collateral contacts.

For other verification, counties should use electronic verification such as Work Number when it is available.

Verification of job loss is not a mandatory verification for CalFresh.  Verification of job loss should be requested only if the job loss is questionable. A client’s statement of job loss is sufficient evidence that the client cannot reasonably anticipate income from that job.

For households whose interviews cannot be waived, counties may require the household to completed a telephone interview even if they request a face-to-face interview.

Counties can document in the case file that the client verbally attested to the information provided on the application instead of having an audio recording of a telephonic signature.  This flexibility can only be used when a telephonic or electronic signature is not available and a wet signature has not been provided.

Counties must ensure that their phone systems have capacity and staffing to implement these waivers.  Phone system performance, including dropped calls, wait times, call completion times and staff adequacy, must be monitored and adjusted to adequately serve incoming calls.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter, April 2, 2020.)