CalWORKs eligibility for fire victims

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) reminded counties about CalWORKs regulations and policies for processing applications and documents on behalf of disaster victims and evacuees.  Emergency proclamations have been issued for Siskiyou County because of the Lava Fire, for Plumas and Lassen Counties because of the Beckwith Complex Fire, Plumas County because of the Dixie Fire and Fly Fire, Butte and Lassen Counties because of the Fly Fire, and Alpine County because of the Tamarack Fire.

Some evacuees will apply for CalWORKs in disaster counties or counties other than the county in which they live because of disaster related-relocation.  Many evacuees will not have documentation.  If the applicant and the county make a good faith effort to obtain verification of identity, time on aid, and linking and non-linking conditions of CalWORKs eligibility and are unable to contact the evacuees financial institutions or necessary entities or institutions, the county must accept the evacuee’s statement signed under penalty of perjury.

CalWORKs recipients may be eligible for nonrecurring special needs payments because of emergencies such as damage to or loss of shelter because of fires.  Funds can be used to repair or replace clothing or household equipment, to provide assistance for damage to the home or to pay for interim shelter.  Nonrecurring special needs payments are a maximum of $600 for each incident.  An assistance unit is eligible if it has less than $100 in nonexempt liquid resources.

Federal disaster and emergency assistance, and comparable disaster assistance from state or local governments, and disaster assistance organizations, is exempt from consideration as income or resources.

Counties are encouraged to explore diversion eligibility for fire evacuees.

Fire evacuees are in an emergency and should be evaluated for an immediate need payment.

Because of the disaster, some income that evacuees had will no longer have income that can be reasonably anticipated.

Many evacuees will not be able to access, occupy or sell their property.  The county shall consider the ability to access or sell property and make a good faith effort to obtain needed verification or accept a statement signed under penalty of perjury.

A family is considered temporarily absent from their county if they expect to reunite within one calendar month.  Evacuee recipients can maintain a home in a different county if they intend to return to their home county within four months.

Counties should make a Welfare-to-Work good cause determination for evacuees.  Counties are encouraged to exercise flexibility in this regard.  Counties should determine if an applicant or recipient needs barrier removal services such as mental health services, housing support program, or temporary homeless assistance.  For homeless assistance, disaster is an exception to the once-every-12-month limit. (ACWDL, July 22, 2021 and July 26, 2021.)