COVID-19 CalFresh overissuances

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides clarification about CalFresh overissuances in the context of COVID-19.  Beginning in March, 2020, all CalFresh households have been receiving maximum amount of CalFresh.  Households entitled to less than the full allotment have been receiving the difference between their entitled allotment and the full allotment as an emergency allotment.  For any month a household receives an emergency allotment, there cannot be an overissuance unless the household is found to have been completely ineligible.

Households are only required to report a change in income during the reporting period that are over the income reporting threshold. Changes in household circumstances such as a change in household composition or expenses, and income fluctuations that are less then the income reporting threshold are not required to be reported during the certification period.

If households report all income as required at application, periodic report or recertification, an overissuance can only be calculated for months in which gross monthly income exceeds the income reporting threshold for two months or more.  Changes in household income or other circumstances that are not required to be reported do not result in an overissuance.

Nonrecurring lump sum payments, including any government stimulus payment or retroactive unemployment insurance payments, do not count as income for CalFresh.  Nonrecurring lump sum payments are a resource in the month received. In this context, there is an overissuance only if a household subject to the resource limit receives a nonrecurring lump sum, does not report at application, periodic report or recertification, and the countable resources exceed the resource limit.

Income that is not reasonably anticipated cannot be used in determining eligibility.  When recreating the circumstances to determine the amount of an overissuance, the county must determine whether the income was required to be reported and if the income was reasonably anticipated to continue.

When determining if an overissuance is administrative error or inadvertent household error, counties must consider the circumstances at the time of the overissuance.  These circumstances include various waivers because of COVID-19 including waiver of periodic reporting and extension of certification periods, and elimination of the interview requirement at initial certification and recertification.  In addition, COVID-19 created significant application and call volume and changes in county operations that may have resulted in a households inability to complete required reports.  Counties must consider these circumstances when establishing an overissuance claim. These circumstances are likely to have impacted a household’s ability to report timely, increasing the occurrence of overissuance claims caused by administrative error.

When an administrative error overissuance claim is established for an active CalFresh household as a result of administrative error, collection is by grant adjustment of 5% or $10 per month, whichever is greater, for no more than 36 consecutive months.

When an overissuance is established for an inactive CalFresh household as a result of an administrative error or inadvertent household error, the claim establishment threshold is $400. (ACIN I-87-20, November 19, 2020.)