CalWORKs overpayments during COVID-19

The California Department of Social Services has issued reminders of CalWORKs overpayment policies in consideration of COVID-19.  In recognition of the pace of policy changes, and the impact COVID-19 had on county operations and CalWORKs recipients’ inability to complete required reports such as gross monthly income over the IRT, counties must consider these circumstances when establishing overpayments as it is very likely there will be an increase in administrative error overpayments beginning with April, 2020.

Federal individual stimulus payments are excluded from counting as income in the month of receipt and as an asset for 12 months following receipt.

Semi-annual reporting was suspended for March, April, and May, 2020.  However, assistance units who did not make mandatory mid-period reports may be subject to overpayments.  Mandatory mid-period reports are income exceeding the income reporting threshold, fleeing felon status, violation of conditions of probation or parole, and address change.  Unearned income must be paired with earned income to be considered over the income reporting threshold.  Failure to report an address change cannot be based on failure to report an address change.

The $600 per week Pandemic Unemployment Compensation provided through July 31, 2020 is exempt from being considered income for recipients, but not for applicants.  If a family had Pandemic Unemployment Compensation in its possession when they applied and it was not used in determining eligibility there could be total ineligibility and an overpayment.

The Lost Wage Assistance Program issued for the period July 26, 2020 to September 5, 2020 does not count as income for CalWORKs because it is Stafford Act disaster benefits.

Administrative Error overpayments are caused when the county has all information in its possession necessary to make a correct grant determination.

For current CalWORKs recipients, collection can be made by grant adjustment, offset of an underpayment with the overpayment, action on a civil judgment, voluntary cash recovery and voluntary cash offset.

For former CalWORKs recipients, the county cannot demand collection of a nonfraudulent overpayment if the balance is less than $250.  When the claim is more than $250, collection can be made by action on a civil judgment, voluntary cash recovery and voluntary cash offset. (ACIN I-14-21, February 17, 2021.)