CalWORKs special needs

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides guidance about CalWORKs special needs payments.  A special need is a need not common to a majority of CalWORKs recipients for goods or services which are essential for their support.  Counties are responsible for assisting the applicant or recipient in identifying any special needs which they may have.  Counties must provide applicants or recipients with a clear explanation of the types of special needs allowances, and the procedure for getting them.  Special needs payments are based on either recurring or nonrecurring special needs.

A recurring special need is a need that results in added cost to the family and which is expected to occur during two or more months in a calendar year.  The recurring special needs allowance for each family per month must not exceed $10 per for each recipient in the family who is eligible.

Recurring special needs include therapeutic diets, unusual costs of transportation, laundry, telephone, housekeeping service, and utilities.

Persons who are not aided because they are excluded from the assistance unit are not eligible for a recurring special need allowance, nor is an individual with a penalty that requires that their needs not be considered in the Maximum Aid Payment.  Individual who have a child support penalty may be eligible for special needs payment because their needs continue to be considered in the Maximum Aid Payment determination.

Nonrecurring special needs are for household emergencies resulting from sudden and unusual circumstances beyond the assistance unit’s control, and homelessness when the assistance unit is seeking permanent housing.  After a family has used all available resources in excess of $100, an assistance unit is entitled to receive a nonrecurring special needs payment for household emergencies.  The maximum payment is $600.  Sudden and unusual does not necessarily mean clients must be unaware of the circumstances happening in advance.  Examples of nonrecurring special needs are: clothing and household equipment, damage to the assistance unit’s home, and interim shelter.

Nonrecurring special needs also include homeless assistance and pregnancy special needs.

Before a special need payment is authorized, evidence must establish the conditions under which the need may be allowed are met, the total cost of the need and the payment plan, the proportion of the cost borne by the recipient if the need is shared with others, and the period over which the need will continue.  In addition to medical verification where applicable, clients must provide receipts stating the amount paid or owed for the expense.

Mid-period reports of a special needs request is mandatory.  As such, a CalWORKs recipient may report having a special need at any time during the payment period.  (ACIN I-72-20, October 28, 2020.)